23 February 2009

50 Marathons 50 Days

I just finished Dean Karnazes' latest book, 50 Marathons 50 Days. For those that don't now (in case a non runner stumbles across this blog) Dean Karnazes is an elite ultra marathon runner. In 2006 he ran 50 marathons in consecutive days in the 50States. The book is basically a dairy of the whole event packed with little tips and helpful hints ranging from how to prepare for a marathon, training tips , diet and loads more.

I found it a worthwhile and interesting read which was written in an easy to follow style which sort of put you on the tour bus so to speak as if you were almost one of the crew along for the ride.

It was pretty obvious that Dean enjoyed connecting with as many locals as he could while he was running each marathon. Even though he may have been suffering from sleep deprivation from the long hours on the road after each marathon or perhaps a little staleness towards the end of the 50 days, Dean always came back to the running public which he would turn out to see him and be a part of his adventure.

Dean's durability is amazing. Having covered over 1300 miles and wearing out out 5 pairs of shoes, the worst he suffered was a couple of blisters and three lost toenails.

Dean is certainly proof of what the human body is capable of achieving if one has the motivation and desire to push to ones limits and beyond.

Well done also to Matt Fitzgerald who co authured the book with Dean.

If you want to read more about what Dean's up to try checking out his Blog.


20 February 2009

Cycling update, and getting some rest

Last weekend I mentioned how I had finally, after much frustration, figured out the correct way to put cleats onto my new cycling shoes and then clip into my pedals. It wasn't so hard once I had the cleat up the right way, but as simple as it sounds now it took all of two or three days to figure out. Anyway, I'm pleased to report that I did get out on the road in the end to test out the new shoes and the clip-in pedal system for the first time.

I started out intending on taking it easy around a 1-2 mile loop in a pretty quiet area free of much traffic, just so I could get the hang of being clipped in with out having to worry about negotiating busy intersections or traffic and stressing about whether I would be able to un-clip myself if I needed to. I also wasn't too sure how the legs would hold up being 'stuck' in one position and whether they would fatigue sooner than normal from doing extra work.

Before long however that old competitive urge took over and I scraped that plan. That competitive streak in me just said 'stuff taking it easy, lets just go hard and see what happens'. I ended up going for my longest ride, a slightly longer than 15 mile loop around the North Shore including some of the cities busiest intersections. If you're interested in a map click the Training Log link at the top of this page and go to last Sunday's ride.

Pleased to say that other than the legs feeling slightly tired for the rest of the day and into Monday, there was none of the serious muscle soreness that I was half expecting.

As you might have seen from my Training Log , I was able to fit in a short ride on Monday, but since then there's been no entries in the log this week. This was partly due to work pressures, I just wasn't able to get away on Wednesday. The other reason for no more rides this week is that last night I had a small operation, which will probably keep me off the bike for a week. I'm supposed to pretty much relax for the next few days however my the end of next week I should be alright to resume my training. I've had a good six weeks or so of training now so a weeks rest won't do me any harm to re charge.

Have a good weekend.


Places I Run

Below are links to posts featuring some of my favourite runs. I'll be updating this page in time once I'm back running, but for now here's two of my old favorites;

- The Boat Sheds

- Round the Mountain


Round the Mountain

This run takes me from my Newmarket office around the volcanic cone of Mt Eden before heading back up Mt Eden Road and back to work. Mt Eden is the highest of Auckland's 49 volcanic cones at a height of 196 metres. The run to the summit is another favourite and offers stunning panoramic views, a great reward for the gut busting climb to the top.

This run however, is a short 3.8 mile cousre around the mountain's base, starts with a gentle climb up Carlton Gore Road before making a left turn into Mountain Road. After briefly decending down to Kyhber Pass, the road climbs again, taking me over the Southern Motorway and past one of Auckland's oldest boys schools, Auckland Grammer School.

Mountain Road is home to some of Auckland's earliest homes and features some beautifully restored turn of the century (19th century) homes. It's also home to Government House, home of the Governor General.

Mt Eden Village with Mt Eden behind. photo by Robyn Gallagher

The half way point of the run and I'm in trendy Mt Eden Village right at the base of the 'mountain' running past it's coffee bars and boutique shops. The road climbs again a little at is approaches the entrance to the summit road before leveling off as I get past the mountain and head back towards the top end of Kyhber Pass.

I cross back over the motorway before heading back down Carlton Gore Road, arriving back at work 30- 35 minutes after I left.

Here's the full map.


The Boat Sheds

I call run "The Boat Sheds" after these old sheds which I pass about 30 minutes into the 5.8 mile loop around the Orakei Basin. Here's the map.

The run starts out from my work in Newmarket, opposite the Auckland Domain. I head straight for Parnell Road, away from the busy Newmarket shopping district, well known for its fashion clothing stores. Newmarket is up on a bit of a plateau so I need to descend for a half mile through Newmarket Park and Ayr Street, down on to Shore Road where I run past Thomas Bloodworth Park and expensive waterfront homes.

Mile two includes a small climb over a hill before returning back almost to sea level. We turn into Orakei Road, still running away from work. Given my history sometimes its a bit risky venturing this far from my work place as it will be a long walk back should I breakdown. Nearing the end of Orakei Road we cross the Orakei Basin before making a left turn into Ngapipi Road which though again undulating, follows the waters edge all the way to The Boat Sheds at the corner of Tamaki Drive.

The Boat Sheds mark the turning point when we start heading back to work along the pituresque Tamaki Drive, which is lined with Pohutukawa Trees and water on both sides and offering supurb views of the iconic Rangitoto Island.

photo by elastic design
At the base of the Parnell cliffs are the Parnell Baths (salt water pools), which is where we take the steps up to the top of the cliffs and on to St Stephens Ave. From there its almost a mile of consistent climbing, past more of Auckland's most expensive real estate, to the top of Parnell Road.

The final 3/4 mile is a flat easy run back to work, though coming after the climb back up from the water it is a much needed easy end to the run.

Generally this is a 50 minute run at an easy pace. Its a run with a bit of everything, undulating hills, a decent mile long flat section, and a mile long climb, not to mention some pretty good scenery.


14 February 2009

I'm such a novice!

Last week I went out a bought some cycling shoes. I'm really getting into my cycling now, going for four rides a week, and also eyeing up a couple of mountain bike races in March and April. I figured I need to get serious and get some shoes and clip in pedals.

After looking around on Trademe for shoes and pedals I started to get an idea of what I needed. In the end I decided I would be better off visiting my local bike shop for some expert advice, and to try on some shoes. I purchased a pair of Diadora mountain bike shoes. They were the cheapest the store had, but they were comfortable so I was happy with the purchase. I also wasn't wanting to spend a lot of money as after all this cycling gig is only supposed to be temporary until I start running again right! And anyway aren't we all supposed to have stopped spending?

I managed to score an old (well not that old but I can see they are well used) set of pedals and cleats through a work colleague, whose husband is a mad keen cyclist. Once home I was eager to fix the pedals to my bike, the cleats to my shoes and to get started with some serious cycling.

Pedals on bike, no problem. Cleats on shoes, no problem. Shoes on pedals, we have a problem!

No matter what I did I couldn't get the stupid shoe on to the pedal. Tried frontwards, backwards. Did I have the pedals on the wrong side? Tried loosening the clips, nothing worked.

I asked my friend at work the next day who checked with her husband and apparently it should just clip in easy as. I have another try that night but still no luck. I'm going to have to take the bike into the shop to get it checked out I decide.

I took the bike into the shop today. I end up having the shop assistant and another shopper all over the bike trying to get the shoes clipped in. Still no luck. Maybe this pedal is not designed for a beginner we all wondered. If a bike shop cant fix this what am I to do I thought? I'll have to buy new pedals I think to myself and quickly find a pair on Trademe when I get home going for around $50. I'll keep an eye on those.

I decide I'll have a final go at getting these shoes on. This time I'll try putting the other shoe on as up to now I been trying with just the right shoe. I take a look at the other cleat as I'm about to screw it into the left shoe. Huh I think, looking at the cleat closely, I wonder what happens if I turn it over this way? I put the cleat up to the pedal and it logically appears to fit the clip. How stupid could I have been? I screwed the cleat on to my shoe, put the shoe on my foot and literally clipped my shoe straight into the pedal. I could not believe how easy it was and how much time and effort I had wasted all due to me having the cleat upside down.

With a quick change over of the other cleat I was ready to start learning this clip in system. I picked it up relatively quickly just riding around my driveway and street. Of course the first time I tried stopping I fell off onto the grass even though I had told myself to flick out my heel rather than lifting my foot. Somehow it just didn't work that first time. Ten or fifteen minutes of practice though and I was getting more comfortable with the whole idea.

Tomorrow is the first proper ride, so I think I'll pick a quiet section of road with few intersections and I'll see how we go. Wish me luck.


12 February 2009

Review - PROwash Activewear Detergent

I've seen a few reviews around the blogoshere in recent months for Prowash Activewear Detergent and then one day a few weeks ago I was invited to try out this product for myself. I thought what did I have to lose so I took them up on their offer of trying some of their fancy new detergent out in exchange for writing a review on my blog. A week or so later the Prowash Detergent arrived in a nicely packaged box all the way for the USA complete with a handy little gym towel in its own little pouch.

photo from marathonmaritza.blogspot.com

The marketing material supplied with the detergent states that it is designed specifically for washing of activewear such as Nike Dry-Fit, Under Armour and Columbia Sportswear ACtivewear. It's stated to remove embedded odors from wicking fabrics of activewear better than ordinary detergents and also prevent fading.

Prowash detergent is suitable for top load or front load washers and comes in an eye catching environmentally friendly pouch.

The hot summer temperatures we're experiencing in Auckland over the last few weeks have made for the perfect testing conditions. My bike shorts and activewear tee shirts are well drenched with sweat these days so the Prowash was certainly going to have its work cut out dealing to these clothes.

I'm not normally one to do too much washing but I thought if I was to be writing a review I had best write it with the benefit of some first hand knowledge of the product. After piling my sweaty cycling gear into the washer I poured in two caps of the Prowash and let it do it's work.

Now as I said before, not really being one that normally handles the washing too frequently I was not able to compare the feel and smell of the newly washed clothes with the feel and smell that we get with our ordinary washing powder. My good wife Michelle tells me however that the Prowash detergent had indeed given the clothes an increased level of softness together with an appealing fresh smell that we did not usually get with our ordinary detergent.

So if you're desperately in need of a washing detergent with muscle, one that can rid your clothes of unwanted odours and leave them looking and feeling like they're fresh out of the sportswear store, the you need to try Prowash Activewear Detergent.

Prowash can be bought online at Amazon from as little as US$26.64. Now I'm not sure how that compares with your average washing detergents in the US but I gather it's possibly slightly on the expensive side. With our weakening NZ dollar it certainly not worth my while to purchase it online, but if you're finding that your ordinary detergent is not working for you then you could do worse than try Prowash Activewear Detergent.


06 February 2009

Waitangi Day, a mountain bike ride, and a visit to the beach

It's the Waitangi Day public holiday here in New Zealand today. Waitangi Day comemorates the signing of The Treaty of Waitangi on February 6 1840 between the British and Maori chiefs which effictively made New Zealand a part of the Britich Empire. It's really the closest thing New Zealand has to a 'national' day. I guess I would relate it to perhaps Australia day over the ditch or maybe Independence day in the US.

For the average New Zealander Waitangi day means another day off from work to enjoy with family or friends. This morning I got out of the house straight after breakfast and headed to the Woodhill Bike Park for a Mountain Bike ride. This mountain bike park has about six main trails ranging from 10 K to 21 K with dozens of smaller side trails to explore also if you desire. It's set amongst a large pine plantation and is close to the Tasman sea which gives it a sandy base. There's also gnarly looking BMX track if you're more into that mode of biking.

Looking at the trail map before hand I fancied the look of the black trail, a 20 K ride which was said to take between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 hours. I figured that I've comfortably riden that distance on the road before so I should be able to handle it out here and I was picking in a time of around 1 1/2 hours.

Well this is the first chance I've had in a few years to really test myself off road at the Bike park and its fair to say I may have misjudged my abilities a bit, in terms of time the ride may take I mean. Riding in the forest on a norrow sandy trail, putting in lots of turns, ups and downs, dodging tree roots and taking all the wee drops is certainly different from road biking, which is pretty much all I have had the pleasure of lately. I enjoyed it greatly though, alone in the forest with just my bike for company taking all the hits and bumps the trail could through at me.

After about 30 minutes I reached the little clearing / rest area (marked B on the trail map). I stopped , had a drink and consulted my map. Realizing that I was only about a quarter of the way to completing the black trail, and conscious some what of the time I had taken to get this far, I chose to switch to the shorter blue trail which is listed at 10 K (1 - 2 hours).

The ride went well , the bumps keep coming, and I pushed hard most of the may. The hills are mostly short and undulating rather than huge climb followed by scary downhills, so you're able to keep a steady pace at most times.

I ended the ride in a time of just over an hour which left me thinking that perhaps I could have stuck to plan A in the first place and done the black trail. Oh well it will be there next time.

We rounded out the day with a trip to one of the local North Shore beaches. Cheltenham beach in Devonport was packed with locals enjoying the hot and sunny conditions, cooling off in the sea or soaking up the suns rays. The boys have been loving the beach this summer and I must say I've enjoyed it too. Here's a picture of them enjoying the beach last weekend.


01 February 2009

Last weeks training and something to train for

As per the cross training plan I outlined at the start of January, I've really got stuck in over the last month and clocked up some decent miles on the road, biking that is. As you may have noticed, at the bottom of the side bar on the right I keep a running tally of the mileage I've covered for the year. As you can see it's now up over 100 miles.

Usually I get in four rides a week and last week that consisted of two shorter 35 minute rides during my lunch hour, a longer ride yesterday with another shorter recovery ride today for a total of 36 miles. You can check my training log in the navigation bar at top of the page for a detailed account of the years training, week by week together with links to the rides (and hopefully runs)that I complete.

Each week I'll try and emulate what a normal runners training programme might look like, that is with one hill ride a week, a weekly long ride and a recovery ride (flat easy pace). Not sure about a tempo ride as usually I try to maintain as steady a speed/tempo as I can for the duration of the ride.

As with running it helps to have a goal or perhaps a race to train for and to keep the motivation up where it should be. So with that in mind I'm seriously considering entering the Xterra Rotorua MTB challenge being held on 18th April.

I've never raced before and the only true off road mountain biking I've done has been just muck around stuff with Michelle or the kids. The plan at this stage is to head out to the Woodhill Bike Park at least once a month for a serious MTB ride and I'm confident that the rest of my training can be done on the road. There's plenty of hills around my work to train on so I'm confident that I will be fine on the hills.

In case you missed it, check out the recent posts at the right side bar for a flashback to the 2006 Auckland Half Marathon. There's also a post there on the build up and what led to me starting this running caper.

Have a good week and all the best to Chad's Cardinals in the NFL final today.


2006 Auckland Half Marathon - Race Report

One more re run from the old Blog. This one is the race report on the 2006 Auckland Half Marathon, to date still the only race of this distance if run in. Check out the previous post also for the build up to this race.

After first setting my sights on the Auckland Half 18 months earlier, the day had finally come after much frustration and uncertainty along the way. It was a 6.30am start down at beautiful Devonport on Auckland's North Shore. I was running it with one other work colleague and we caught one of the buses the organisers put on from our local bus station. The bus was full of excited runners and trip to Devonport took about 20-30 minutes dropping us off right by the start. We dropped our bags at the bag drop and headed for the start line.

Memories of the pre start are pretty much limited to the long ques at the portoloos and thinking how are all these people going to make it to the start line in time. I fortunately found a quick moving que however my mate had a longer wait and we of course got separated. I will also remember the images of men standing at the waters edge relieving themselves straight into the harbour in order to avoid the long waits for the portos - note to self not to go swimming there on the day of a marathon!(I'll also say it wasn't just the men who took the beach over the long waits on land either!).

I took the chance to do a few stretchs while waiting for my mate some 50 meters back and to the side of the start but he was not to show up. The gun went. I was not too worried about starting near the back of the field as I had my race chip and it was the chip time that I would be taking as my race time in any event. Expectations / hopes were for a sub two hour run but I was really thinking that a 1:55 would be a realistic time also.

Here's the course.

As you can see the course takes us Northwards from Devonport toward Takapuna before crossing the northern motorway and turning south heading for the Harbour Bridge before ending at Victoria Park in the city. It is a predominantly flat course with the only notable climb being the harbour bridge.

So I started near the back and remembering the advice of my more experienced colleagues I just took it pretty slow from the start for the first couple of miles. I soon got into a good steady pace and I was feeling comfortable though the first hour. I don't really know what pace I was running at and I hardly picked up any distance markers either so it was pretty hard to judge how I was doing pace wise. I just had to go on feel and from my training experience in which I usually ran around 5:20 to 5:30 k's. I wasn't consciously running any quicker than I would normally so I was guessing the first 10k would be covered in at worst say 55 minutes.

At around the half way point my left foot was feeling quite numb and I stopped to stretch my calves. I must have lost about five minutes here and I was definitely a little concerned about the time that I was losing and whether the foot would hold up enough to get me across the bridge and to the finish.

I re joined the race, we crossed the motorway, ran past the netball courts and turned south back towards the city. It was comforting to have reached this point knowing that with each stride I was now actually getting closer to the finish instead of running away from it.

At around the seven mile point when I looked across and saw my mate I'd been separated from earlier. We ran together for the next mile or so chatting about how we were each holding up. Neil was in good shape and gradually I let him go and by the time we got to the bridge I was starting to lose sight of him.

Running over the harbour bridge was an experience. Definitely something that not many people ever get to do. I drive across the bridge virtually every day so the view was nothing new but you certainly get a different perspective. The climb up the bridge would be almost a kilometer and coming at the 14 K mark it was reasonably testing. I had done a fair amount of hill work in training though and got to the top quite comfortably.

The foot was holding up well and though I felt some slight numbness it didn't seem that this was going to be a problem. Down the other side of the bridge and we still had over five k's to go but I knew this area well, it is all flat, and I didn't expect it to pose any problems for me. I was feeling okay and was still running at a comfortable pace that I felt I could sustain.

Coming past the Westhaven marina we had about four K to go and I was starting to try and lift the pace knowing that it would soon be over. I finally saw a distance marker at 19 K and I thought that with only two K to go I could definitely afford to pull out all stops now and put the foot down so to speak. I managed to find some extra speed in the legs. I was passing quite a few runners at this point and still feeling okay. I eventually ran out of gas with around 500 meters to go, slowing to a jog but by that stage I was just soaking up the atmosphere of the finish and thinking to myself that I had made it.

It was a sweet feeling and the relief was enormous. I had put so much time and effort into preparing for this and as I was rounding the last corner near the finish my emotions almost overcame me as I realised I had accomplished something that had for so long seemed so far away.

I was very happy and a bit surprised with my time of 1:49. Had it not been for a stop to stretch it could easily have been sub 1:45.

Here's some picture of me finishing.


2006 Auckland Half Marathon - The build up


If you're a bit confused by the title for this post, don't be. I'm taking the opportunity while on this enforced injury break to write a report on my first ever race, the 2006 Auckland Half Marathon, before all memories of it are long forgotten.

To set the scene I will first go back even further to mid 2005 when the thought of running the half was first mentioned by some enthusiastic work colleagues. There was a group of four or five of us who took up the challenge and even though I was in no shape back then to even be contemplating a half marathon, as I was the youngest I thought I would look pretty soft if I didn't accept the challenge.

I trained for several months before succumbing to the dreaded shin splints thus I failed to make the start line in 05. I did end up carrying the drinks however and it was hugely motivating watching all the finishers and I was even more determined that I would make the start line in 06.

In 2006 I had more time to prepare and my base fitness was generally way better than a year earlier. After two or three months of training the shin pain was still hanging around and rather than just give in to it as I had the previous year, this time I sought out some advice and treatment. My pyhsio gave me a range of stretches to do to improve my flexibility which I still do to this day. I also saw a podiatrist and got some custom fitted orthotic insoles. I took a four week break to rest the shins during which time I kept up my fitness with swimming and biking. It's amazing how effective these activities are for maintaining ones fitness when you can't run.

Six weeks out from the half I was back running. It was a quick fire six week half marathon training programme which involved a four week build up phase followed by a two week taper. At the end of week four I successfully completed a 19k (11.8 mile) run in 1:33 and at that point I was confident that I would make this distance.

I was still just running three days a week and combining that with one swim a week as well as a bike ride some weeks too.

The shins were holding up nicely but around this time I started to experience the other issue that still frustrates me today, the numb foot after about 30 minutes of running. Back then it didn't seem to be every run so I was never quite sure when this thing would pop up.

However, I was now certain that I could make it to the half and I was ready for the big day.

Stay tuned for the Race Report.


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