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.)

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

“Not all those who wander are lost”

Sometimes the journey is as much fun as the destination. Yesterday’s trip from Fairlie to Queenstown, a journey of just under 300k with a predicted drive time of three hours 25 minutes, took us almost eight.

And for once the delay did not involve mechanical meltdowns or comedic catastrophes! Though as we drove there was a lot of remembering previous
Trips and associated good and bad times!

Before we left I had had a lovely country run of about 40 minutes, enjoying the wake up sounds, sights and smells of small town New Zealand. Sheep, cattle, birdsong, woodsmoke. This was followed by a cooked breakfast and a soak in the hot tub. I seriously want one of those.

We were packed and on the road by 10am. The cloud hung low and squeezed the odd drop of water onto the windscreen, occasionally meriting the use of the wipers. It was a short drive to Lake Tekapo which seems to have been ruined by overbuilding. It is so different from when we came as kids, staying in relocated Ministry of Works houses on the lakefront, feeding the power metre with 20 cent coins and learning to skate on the outdoor rink.

I finally got my Denheath custard square and a coffee which I ate, parked overlooking the lake. It was very still and looked very cold. Low cloud obscured the mountains. From here we continued south through the Mackenzie Basin. I am more used to seeing deep golden tussocks against a brilliant blue sky. The low cloud made it very grey and bleak looking. We came across a surreal Lake Pukaki which glowed slightly blue against the cloud. It was very thick and low here. No photo ops for Mt Cook today!

Andrew threw me onto my bike and I picked up the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail. I loved it. Zipping along a well formed but still rugged trail, the blue glowing hint of a lake to my right, the distant hum of the main road to the left. Just me, my bike and a lot of bunnies. Andrew picked me up again at the top end of Pukaki by the canal inlet. These southern lakes are all linked by massive canals which move water around to feed the massive power hydro scheme. Fascinating engineering.

From Pukaki the weather was more fragmented. Sporadically the cloud would lift and we would be treated to a hint of a vista. The colours remain vibrant and would reflect beautifully in the still waters of the many lakes. Sadly I knew my little camera would not do it justice. I committed them to the photo album of my mind.

I needed more food! How or why I am not sure. I don’t eat this much at home. Omarama offered some ancient fried food or any selection of stodgy carbs. I chose to wait.

We continued south through the Lindis. Wow. It never ceases to impress me. I do live in a beautiful country. And eventually my starvation was relieved at Tarras with a bowl of creamy potato and garlic soup. I had been chilled for some time. Andrew and I do not operate on the same heating system. He was driving in a t shirt with the window down. I had a merino top, a thermal top and my windproof fleece, my winter weight cycle tights, and my beanie and gloves. I was still cold. But the driver’s needs dominate.

There was a merino store attached to the cafe. As all the signs said, “Your Icebreaker comes from here.” I fell in love with a little merino dress. Unfortunately they didn’t have it in my size otherwise I would have bought it. Very disappointed.

We carried on past Lake Dunstan, bypassing Cromwell and through the Kawarau Gorge. Again I continue to be wowed by this scenery. Despite my unsubtle hints we drove past the original home of the bungy, instead stopping by Lake Hayes for a bike ride. It was 4pm and the sun was dropping quickly. The low sun and the lifting cloud lit the lake in a golden glow. The trail looped the small lake. It was a busy wee trail with us two biking and maybe 50 people out walking or running. Andrew found it tough, telling me it was further and hillier than his commute to work. I. Loved. It. Swooping up and down the hills, relishing the view at every corner.

We got back to the car right as the sun set, to the minute. Perfect timing. And drove the final kilometres to Queenstown.

We are treating ourselves with lakefront room at the Copthorne, about 1k from the centre of town. It was dark by the time we got to the room but I think we will love our view.

We finished the day by walking in to town and having a meal at Speight’s Ale House. I may not need to eat today. Yeah, right. (Oops wrong beer ad.)

Cover photo: Lake Hayes at the start of our bike ride
Title: As we drove through some of the country used to film the Lord of the Rings series, it seems fitting to title my blog with a quote from Tolkein himself.

Simple Pleasures

This is about the fourth attempt I have made to “blog” recently. But all the previous efforts have been discarded. I really had nothing to say. My husband would probably agree this is true most of the time but I carry on yacking away.

My title of the blog is 50 things which make me go Wow. And this morning is a wow morning. For the sheer simple pleasure of sunshine. And falling leaves. And taking the time to sit.

It is late Saturday morning. I had been doing inside jobs and it was cold. Our house is definitely colder and damper than it used to be and it was never known for its ambient temperature. I was cold. But when I came outside to hang out the washing, which began steaming as the sun hit it, I was surprised how mild it was.

I brought a cushion and my knitting and set myself up on the garden bench right beside our front door.

I still wore my beanie though, partly to keep my head warm (I am a reptile) and partly to measure againstq as I knit another beanie the same for a young friend.

The air was still. Sounds of the city filled the air, traffic going about its business, kids playing on the school playground, the neighbour’s toddler complaining.

Then there was a clatter, a lot like the sound of reindeer hooves on the roof in Clement Clarke Moore’s famous poem.

I looked up, and one of our oak trees was just shedding its leaves. Rustle, rustle, rustle. They fluttered and flew across the blue sky, discs of gold and green, zig zagging their way to the ground.

Adidas pounced and killed a few. But most managed to land on the lawn. Where they will lie until they annoy me too much and I will rake them away.

It is even warmer now. I can take off my hat. A sunny day in May. A simple pleasure. A wow to hold and recall when winter really sets in.

A warm fuzzy

This morning I went running. Not that unusual. I run five or six days a week.

I didn’t relish the thought of running this morning. It was dark. It was wet. It was cold. Autumn arrived overnight about a week ago. But once I started I was fine.

I ran my go-to route to Hagley Park (2km), the figure eight loop around both sections (8km), and back home giving me a total of 12km. A nice number to log before breakfast.

I needed to stuff my beanie in a pocket and unzip my jacket relatively quickly into the run. And then I just ran, at a comfy pace, probably close to MP. I zoned out, as you do. Thinking about breakfast, planning my day, muesli or toast, budgeting money in my head, peaches or rhubarb, remembering what I need to tell Andrew. Completely inside my head.

“Robyn.” Someone calls my name. I turn and another lycra clad person wearing a jacket and headband is running back towards me. I. Have. No. Idea. Who. It. Is. It is darkish. I am not wearing glasses. And I am pretty crap at matching names/faces.

“Robyn, I just wanted to tell you I am running my first marathon.”

My lightbulb clicked. This woman and I have spent some time together before and after races. I have also bumped into her in the supermarket. Christchurch is just a village really with only 400,000 people. I thought her name was Debbie. (Google later confirmed it. Phew!)

We chatted. She was running with a group of men and then carrying on to complete two and a half hours. I was tempted to say I would run with her but my stomach was remembering the promise of muesli, rhubarb and yoghurt.

She finished by yelling over her shoulder as she ran to rejoin her group, “Thanks, Robyn, you inspired me!”

Wow! A warm fuzzy for a damp dreary day. Thank you, Debbie. I ran a little bit faster all the way home.