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!

Dirty girls

I like it rough. I like it dirty.

And that is why I like cross-country running.

Yesterday’s race was muddy. I had run on the course a few weeks ago and it was wet. I ran again on Wednesday, doing a quick lap in spikes. It was muddy.

And then it rained. For two days straight.

I took my 6mm spikes out and replaced them with longer 9mm ones. A good move.

Yesterday morning I woke up feeling queasy. I actually think it was nerves. Twice now this has happened before a championship race. I had my horse trough sized bowl of porridge, with natural yoghurt and sliced banana on top. And I pottered around. I went to Merivale Mall which was hosting a food tasting market. So many things to try and buy. I had none. Discipline is knowing what you want more than what you want now. I wanted a good race.

Start time was 2:05. Andrew dropped me off just after 1pm and I trudged across the park to our tent. Underneath my puffer jacket, my club fleece, my club dryfit, my merino and my thermal. Beneath the trackpants and running tights there was a lean mean running machine. I kept some of the outerlayers on and did my warm up routine. I ran the course working out the best lines for harer ground. Going wide was the better option as the inside corners were churned mud. The juniors race first.

I did have a momentary panic when using a portaloo and it lurched violently. I thought I was over earthquake stress, but at that moment if I hadn’t just been, I would have crapped myself. I thought there had been a massive earthquake and I was going to die, trapped in a portaloo, drowned in yucky stuff. But no, it was just off its rocker. Freaked me out big time.

It was cold but not as cold as was predicted. There were intermittent rain showers which were better than the snow flurries predicted. And it was time to strip down and check. Singlet. Number. Timing chip. Shoes laced extra tight.

Start time. A big crowd as every woman from 15 years up was running together. Under 20s were running 2 laps of 2k, senior women 4 laps and us oldies were running 6k.

And we were off. I was in the middle of the pack. The first 150m is downhill and I passed a lot of people. I tried to remember not to go out too fast as three laps could be tough. Across the bridge and the first uphill slog. It doesn’t look much but it is deceivingly tough. This year because of the wet conditions the start finish area had moved. This uphill is usually our finishing straight. It was very soft and very wet. I ploughed through and passed a few more. I could see easily I was in third position for masters women. It was where I expected to be. Just hold that spot. Round the bend and downhill for a bit. Use these straights to keep strong but recover. The long two part uphill is coming. Andrew called out “Go Robyn”. Lots of people were calling out to me. Telling me I looked strong. I felt good. I felt strong.

The next uphill. Again sodden and soft. Quite muddy. I picked off a few more runners. Younger girls. A sharp s bend and then the real hill. Thick thick mud. I kept to the left and dug in. This is a strength of mine. I am strong in these conditions. I passed another couple. Round the corner and down hill. Keeping it strong but easy. Across a gravel path and then we weaved through the flax bushes. The choice was slippery mud or slippery mud. It was 100 m of a muddy path. It could all turn belly-up here. I was through. Across the water course, round the corner, the second water course, round the corner and first lap done.

We set off again. I am feeling good. Just keep going. I see Fiona ahead of me. Fiona is five foot nothing of pure running machine. But lately she hasn’t been running as well as previously. I have been hot on her tail a lot recently. I passed her at about 2.5ks. I felt like apologising. She said go girl.

I attacked that second hill again. There were a couple of blue and orange singlets ahead of me. Our junior girls. Again I don’t like to pass them. I think it must be demoralising to be passed by someone older than your mum!

But I did. Sorry, girls. I am having a great day.

Second lap done. Everyone is really cheering me. Giving me good advice. Telling me I was looking strong. Looking awesome. I felt it too.

That last hill though. It was tough. I try not to look behind me in a race but I do use the corners to see who is where. Fiona was coming back. Could I hold her? I dug a little deeper even though my kegs were a bit tired. Less than 1k to go. I glanced back as I crested the hill and rounded the bend. She was about 80m back. I had this. I flew.

Across the line. Second masters woman (over 35) and first over 50. A nice visit to the top of the podium. I am beginning to like the view from up there.

But I felt good. I have a training plan. I have an eating plan. I had a race plan. And they all came together.

My legs were caked mud from top of my socks to bottom of my shorts. It took some scrubbing to get them clean. I imagine my shoes and race gear will take some scrubbing too.

Now it is Sunday. My medals are hung. My day of glory gone. Back to the training plan, and even though it is dark, cold and I hear rain, the plan says 25k.

So be off.

I-runner

Tonight (Wednesday) I committed to a race, the Winter Warm Up. A 10k hilly trail run in the limestone hills of North Canterbury. Sponsored by Waipara Springs Winery

For me it is a race with a difference. I am going to subdue my competitive nature and support Mike instead. Mike is blind. I met him a couple of months ago through Achilles International. In Achilles there is no political correctness. Mike suffers from a congenital condition. He can see light and shapes well enough to run unleashed but his peripheral vision is non existent. He also struggles with depth and perception, unable to judge distant or speed of other people.

We run well together. My brain gets very tired as I struggle with my left and right. I can’t use the fall-back of pointing in the direction I mean. Mike gets very tired as during winter he can only run during the weekends. It is too dark before and after work for someone with limited sight.

The weather forecast is foul. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is someone like Mike gets to run in an event just like so many other people.

It is Sunday afternoon now. We ran this morning. It could not have been a better morning for it. The frost was hard and heavy but it morphed into a brilliantly sunny day with no wind. That is the thing about weather – it just does what it does regardless of what the forecasters predict!

A group of six congregated at the Foundation for the Blind and we car pooled from there. I love driving through Canterbury with the snowy alps outlining the western horizon. We live in a special place.

Wrapped up warm in layers of hats and gloves and puffer jackets we joined the many other runners and walkers registering, and queuing for the toilets. My feet were frozen solid but as the sun slowly rose the frost was melting. I made the brave choice to discard my thermal long sleeve, beanie and gloves for the actual run.

It was time for us to go. Mike had decided we did not need to be attached. He was a little anxious about running with a large group of people so we set off at the back. We agreed he was to set the pace, I would run to his left, unless it got tricky in which case he would pop in behind me and follow.

Our plan worked brilliantly except when Mike was diligently following me to allow faster runners to pass on the first uphill. I forgot to mention the fence had a top strand of barbed wire. He jokes about gashing open his arm and haemorrhaging profusely but in actuality he snagged his tee shirt.

We walked most of the uphills and quite a few of the alongs. About 3k from the end I pointed out some distance shiny reflections which he could just see. That was the finish. I also said there were a group of women wearing matching fluro tops calling themselves the cupcakes. We were not going to be beaten by them.

With a bit of final motivation and the threat of a cupcake closing in on us we crossed the finish line in 1:13.

Mike, you’re a bloody legend.

It was fun. Mike will be sore and stiff tomorrow. There were some good uphills. The course description said three and there were three decent sized hills, but another half dozen or so smaller or sharper ascents. Each of those was followed by a matching descent which kills the quads if you are not used to it. The scenery was stunning with long vistas of farmland dotted with sheep, pitted with limestone quarries, traversed by a freight train. Blue sky. Snowy hills and mountains. If we could have seen the coast my day would be perfect.

The race pack included a lovely lunch put on by the Amberley Rugby Club – hamburgers, sausages, hot soup and baked spuds. Sitting in the sun with a group of people celebrating their achievements, eating scrummy hot food. What a way to spend a Sunday.

Thanks to Barb Millar, from Events with a Purpose who allowed me (and Donna who guided Petronella with Fletcher the guide dog on the 10k) to run for free. Awesome event. Awesome day. Might have to come back and tackle the 20k next year. Mike, you have been warned!

(Unfortunately I am having trouble linking websites today. So no links to Events with Purpose, Waipara Springs Winery, or the Winter Warm-up Run.)

From nature to nurture

Wow. What a wonderful weekend.

Which although began on Friday afternoon made me stop and stare on Saturday morning when I was setting off for a frosty run through big country.

Seeing the sun rise turn the mountain range a rich peach colour.

Moments later the brighter sun illuminates the feather fronds of toetoe which shine golden like tinsel.

Looking back at the crisp sharp edges of the mountain ridge which serrates the intense blue of an early morning sky.

Wow. You don’t see that sleeping in on a Saturday morning in Christchurch.

I wasn’t in Christchurch though. I had a girls’ weekend with four fantastic friends.

It has become an annual tradition that the five of us get away somewhere. Like most Christchurch women we gravitate to Hanmer as it is less than two hours drive from home. The small town offers something for everyone whether you want to be excessively active or gently stroll, shop til you drop, soak in the thermal pools, wine and dine or coffee and cake.

Our tight group met between 15 and 20 years ago through playcentre. We have shared the highs and lows of parenting, marriage, careers and families. We all bring our own unique piece to the complete group.

This weekend was much needed as 2014 has brought about many changes in our working lives. No longer is there a window of opportunity when we are all available to grab a coffee during the day. Our busy lives often mean weeks go by without any opportunity to catch up.

This weekend we did.

Maybe the idea of a weekend away is to relax. I always find I pack so much in I need a day or two to recover. My legs hurt from running on steeper than usual trails. I ate and drank far more than I usually do. I stayed up late – for me! And my tummy muscles still ache from the belly laughing sessions we had.

Wow is for weekends away. Time with friends, friends with whom you feel so comfortable sharing the good and the bad, friends who you know are really laughing with you when you muddle up their names, Shawn and Dona. Friends who would happily answer to Robyn, because when three out of five were given that name at birth, it just makes sense that the others use it too.

So to the other two Robyns, to Dawn and to Shona, this is for you!

A sight to behold

This morning I was treated to an awesome natural wow. It is one I get to enjoy many times a year but it still amazes me everytime I see it.

The Southern Alps, covered with a fresh dump of winter snow, as seen from the top of the Port Hills.

I run most Sundays up there, for about 90mins. It is usually an easy 15k of conversation, the hardest part being keeping the conversation going as we keep an even pace up and down the undulations.

The Alps which reach a height of more than 3000m lie 70 west of Christchurch. Most days I catch glimpses of their majestic glory. But to see such a wide panorama from the many vantage points on the Port Hills. Wow!

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Picture credit

Cover picture credit

50 wows for 50 years in one run!

Today is my birthday, my 50th.

I celebrated with a run as I like to do on my birthday. It was awesome.

Andrew dropped me at the start of this track. He arranged to pick me up 90 minutes later at Moke Lake. His parting words were, “you know you are insane!”
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I ran through bush, bird song being the only other sound I heard. It was still. Cold. And almost raining. It was also straight up until I hit this spot beside Lake Dispute.

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A big tough hill, but I ran all the way over it. I might be literally over the hill, but certainly not figuratively!

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I found a cute wee musterer’s hut settled amongst the matagouri and bush. I preferred the musterer’s accommodation we had the other night, but this was authentically New Zealand..

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Then an easy downhill track through a paddock of cattle beast, who carried on eating as I ran by.

Traversing Moke Lake, around the head and back along the shingle road until I met my support person. He had bananas and a peanut slab!

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A Great Kiwi Road Trip

“Deviating from a plan brings opportunities unforeseen.”

I am sure that someone famous must have said that or something like it. Otherwise feel free to quote me!

Andrew and I are on a bit of a road trip. Destination Queenstown via a race I had in Cust. For those unfamiliar with New Zealand’s geography this involved us driving north west from Christchurch to Cust then heading South via the Inland Scenic Route which runs along the base of the Southern Alps.

We stopped in Geraldine to buy some food for dinner. We were spending the night en route, somewhere unbeknownst to me. While looking for the supermarket Andrew mentioned he would like to go to the Barker’s shop. The Barker family are an institution in this area, famous for their fruit products. As a child we always stopped at their farm shop as we travelled south for our annual skiing/skating holiday.

The current shop was amazing. Barkers products and their new product line, Anathoths. I wanted it all. We were the only customers. It was a dark damp Saturday evening, just before closing. Andrew and I were discussing what to buy, tossing comments back and forth across the shop.

I noticed a man. He was listening to us. As we were discussing whether Robbie would like Anathoth’s Lemon Curd as a present, the man came over.

“You must try it. It is the best.” Well, of course he would say that. He was the current owner, Michael Barker.

We spent the next 45 minutes tasting his products. He asked our opinions on marketing. Told us the stories behind his new products. How Anathoth’s is made with ingredients his grandmother would have used. That is their mission statement. Barker’s is to make the best product available. Andrew ended up going back to the car to get homemade Quince Jelly. Michael was impressed with the depth and clarity of colour but said it was a little overcooked.

It was a wonderful and unexpected delight. We left feeling enriched, and with a massive box of purchases. One I am keen to try is is unsweetened blackcurrant juice concentrate which he says adds pro-oxidants to the body which when taken two hours before vigorous exercise promotes recovery. Mmmm like the sound of that!

Straight to the supermarket to buy some cheeses and crackers. I found a local cheese, Talbot Forest Geraldine Aged, a strong cheddar which teamed well with the Spiced Apricot Chutney.

We ended up staying the night in Fairlie at a new accommodation place called The Musterer’s. Very luxurious and very well set up. I especially like the wood heated hot tub. The perfect way to soak tired muscles after a hard hilly muddy race.

Andrew is getting good at organising wee treats away. He might be a keeper after all. Soon it will be light enough for me to go for a run. As I said yesterday if we stayed the night in Fairlie I was definitely going to have a Denheath Custard Square for morning tea, I had better go for a long run. I can see my typical athlete’s diet being abandoned for the next four days.