Auckland Marathon

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Today I competed in the 2015 Auckland Marathon! My official time was 2:56:58 and I was 50th across the finish line! I have conquered the elusive sub 3 marathon!

0415 h. I drag myself out of bed and carry out my usual pre-race ritual – eating a big bowl of rolled oats for breakfast! I’ve stayed the night at a friend’s place. Michael, just like me, set his sights on a sub 3 marathon finish this year. Unfortunately, he has injured himself but is still going to complete the race — a real strength of character! Helen, Michael’s significant other drops us off at the start line in Devonport.

20x30-AAMO00720500 h. We head into a café which has opened early for the 2015 Rugby World Cup (RWC) between New Zealand and Australia! We continue watching the first half of the match outside near the start line, where the organizers have graciously erected a large screen. Hundreds of runners and supporters gather on the lawn. It is a fantastic atmosphere and a great way to start the day — especially as we are in the lead!

0555 h. With one hand on the Ellis Cup, my mind shifts from the RWC to my own future glory — crossing the finish line within three hours! All that stands in my way is a mere 42.2 kilometers at an average speed of 14.07 km/h. Easier said than done? One last check and disaster strikes! I’ve lost one of my energy gels! I’ve got no idea where I lost it and suddenly I’m down to four gels.

Before I know it, the race has just begun!

I ease into the run and join in with a bunch of Wellington Scottish runners. I look at my watch and notice I’m going too fast. I drop off the group and dial my pace back to 4:10. Paranoid about losing another energy gel, I check my gel belt. It is a mere two kilometers into the race, and I’ve lost yet another energy gel! I lament to the runner beside me that my gel belt is going straight into the rubbish after the race!

I’ve got three energy gels for the entire race and can’t afford to lose another one. I remove two of the gels out and hold onto them — firmly — in my hands.

20x30-AAML0072Soon enough I’m running up the Auckland Harbour Bridge. It is one of the joys of the run and is one of the few chances you’re able to cross the bridge on foot! It is a steady climb but is made difficult by a head wind along with drizzle. Fortunately, the rain is brief and I consume one of my gels at the 16 km mark. According to my watch I reach the half marathon mark at 1:25:17 but in reality it is 1:26:15. A good time never the less, but somewhere my watch has overestimated the distance by some 300m. I take my second gel at 26 km.

I make good progress towards the St Heliers turn point and maintain 1 km splits between 3:46 and 4:09 pace, well on track for a sub 3 finish! However, at the 34 km mark, my tired and fatigued legs begin slowing down. I keep glancing at my watch, foolishly hoping that by doing the time goes quicker. By it just adds to the agony; I see my average speed drop and my 1 km splits slow to a 4:35 pace!

20x30-AAMB0074As a few runners I passed earlier in the race overtake me, a familiar face appears. It is my colleague Grant, who has come out to watch the runners on his Sunday bike ride! I ask Grant to accompany me for the remaining seven kilometers for moral support. I also take my third and final gel at 36 km.

Surprisingly, I hold on to 4:40 pace and am at downtown and only a couple of kilometers from the finish! With Grant riding beside me on bike I get a further boost as I pass another familiar face. Michael, who still recovering from surgery, briefly stops for me, does a short ‘dance’ and gives quite vocal words of encouragement. I slog out the last kilometer and complete the race in 2:56:58 (official/mat time of 2:57:04)!

I have conquered the elusive sub 3 marathon!

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I catch my breath at the finish line then head back home. Later that afternoon I doze off for an afternoon nap…

DSCN87672355 h. Hunger wakes me and I’m longing for some greasy food. And why not? I’ve earn it today! Sausage rolls and chicken nuggets have never tasted so good! I reflect on today’s achievement and amuse myself reading of others sub three hour achievements and marathon statistics. I also take stock of my own race:

  • Official time: 2:57:04, net time: 2:56:58
  • 50th across the finish line (out of 1,496 finishers)
  • First half split: 1:26:15, second half split: 1:30:43
  • Race weight: 79kg
  • Average heart rate: 174 bpm
  • Energy gel at 16km, 26km, 35km and Powerade at every station

gps

speed

Christchurch Half Marathon

Last Sunday I competed in the 2015 Christchurch Half Marathon! My official time was 1:20:24 and I was 59th across the finish line! This is my second official half marathon and achieved a new personal best!

My goal was sub 1:20. The plan was to maintain 3:47 min/km for as long as I could. To my surprise, I (almost) managed to maintain this pace! I carried an energy gel but I did not use it.

I enjoyed the course. It was the first time it was held in the city since the devastating earthquakes in 2010/2011. I was 79kg on the day (I have lost several kilograms since having dental braces).

Rotorua Marathon

Last Saturday I competed in the 51st Rotorua Marathon!

Hoping to improve on my previous attempt, I started the race with the aim of following the three hour pace runner. My goal was a personal best marathon time – I was aiming for under 3:08. Like last time, one of my energy gels fell out of my fuel belt early on in the race. I compensated by having more Powerade early on in the race.

Things were going well at half way – I was on target at 1:29. However, by the 26th kilometer I felt I could no longer keep up with the three hour bunch and decided to go into “damage control”. I was not sure why I did this, as my legs were not too sore and I still had “fuel in the tank”. I tried to maintain 5:00 pace but ended up going slower than that for most of the last 10 kilometers.

I ended up finishing the race with an official time of 3:12:49. This is two minutes slower than last year’s attempt!

Despite not achieving my goal, my mother completed the course making Rotorua her first full marathon! A huge achievement for her – I’m so proud of you!

Running a marathon is always hard. Especially those last 10 kilometers! I’ll continue to strive for a sub three hour marathon, but feel I am still some way off from achieving this.

On the day I was 80.5kg and used my new Asics Kayano 21 running shoes. These were worn in for a month and did not cause me any problems. I took six energy gels but lost one and only consumed four. I took either water or Powerade at the drink stations.

 

Conquering Mount Taranaki

Last Friday afternoon, my colleague (Grant) and I spontaneously decide to climb Mount Taranaki!

Sound familiar? Last year, my flatmate and I decided to do the same thing. Unfortunately, bad weather (amongst other things!) prevented us from reaching the summit.

Grant and I leave Auckland 6:30 pm and arrive in Stratford at midnight. We wake at 5:30 am and head to the mountain shortly afterwards.

Neither of us brought a map of the mountain. Despite stopping a couple of service stations, we are still without a map! Although there many ways to scale Mount Taranaki, it appears there is not a map: beginners follow the well-marked northern ‘tourist’ track; pros don’t need one!

We change tack and start the tramp at the Egmont National Park Visitors Centre.

Unlike the eastern side, there is substantially less scree to contend with. We follow a gravel road flanked by scrub that soon turns into a steep concrete track (“The Puffer”). Following this there is a long flight of wooden stairs. Many stairs later, we make our way up the scree slope which soon changes into solid rock (“The Lizard”). Although the rocky part is much easier than the scree, it is quite steep (more than 45 degrees in places) and care needs to be taken.

In little over three hours, we are at the top of Mount Taranaki! Success!

Grant and I admire the view from 2518 m and head back. We make it back to the car park in a little over six hours (including a 30 minute stay at the summit). Surprisingly, the descent was not much faster than the ascent!

We head to New Plymouth and enjoy a classic kiwi fish and chip lunch down by the beach. Roughly five and a half hours later, we’re back in Auckland.

All in all, it was an enjoyable 24 hours, despite spending 11 hours driving! The weather could not have been better. I recommend scaling Mount Taranaki on the north face track before you attempt any other route!

Wellington Round the Bays

Yesterday I competed in the 2015 Wellington Round the Bays half marathon! My official time was 1:24:26 and I was 27th to cross the finish line! This was also my first official half marathon. It was also a long time coming – I intended to do this race five years ago but never got around to doing it!

The plan was to maintain 4 min/km pace (15 kph) until the half way mark. Depending on how I was feeling, I either step it up or hold onto this pace.  I ended up doing both! At 10.55km, my average pace was exactly 4:00 min/km. The next five kilometres my pace dropped slightly. This was most likely due to the sea breeze headwind out towards Kau Bay. Determined to maintain the target pace, I mustered the energy required to finish strong and finished the race in 1:24:26, hitting the target average 4 min/km pace!

No major complaints with my run. I stuck to my target pace and felt great throughout the race. Oddly the only muscle that was tender post race was my right tricep! I consumed one energy gel at 12 km and had three mouthfuls of water along the way. Half a cup of rolled oats before the race was adequate. I’m currently 85 kg – 3-4 kilograms too heavy!

I was not the only one from my family competing in the event. My mother also entered and finished the event, her sixth half marathon. Well done mum!

I enjoyed yesterday’s half marathon distance run. It is a long run yet not too long. Unlike full marathons, I did not ‘hit the wall’ and it never felt like a long slog to the finish. I’ll have to sign up for more half marathons in the future!

Taupo Solo

Finally! I have conquered the sub five hour Taupo bike ride!

On the early hours of 29/11/14, I left Auckland at 2 a.m. and arrived in Taupo circa 5:30 a.m. I step out of the car and my lungs fill with Taupo’s cold but refreshing air. I also do some last minute checks on my bike and scoff down breakfast – a bread bun, muesli bars and a banana. 8 a.m. arrives. I start in Group 3 (expect to finish between 4:50 and 5:10) and we’re off!

The first half of the course is interesting. Although I am in a sizeable bunch, it appears no one is willing to share responsibility for breaking the wind at the front. Soon a smaller group (myself included) break from the group with the aim of catching up to an earlier and faster group. We make good headway but life is not easy with foul weather (head wind, cold temperature, occasional showers etc).

As the race progresses I find myself surrounded by much better cyclists and we have a paceline going. We zoom down Waihi Hill and the pace really picks up from Turangi onwards.

All of a sudden, a few kilometers from Hatepe Hill, my stomach churns. Running low on energy and almost out of energy gels, I am now being punished for a poor breakfast! I slow down and am dropped from the pack. I muster the energy to climb the notorious Hatepe Hill (but after doing K2, this is is not a hill!) and manage to pass a few of the riders in the group I was with! This success is short lived as I stop to refuel at the next aid station.

For the remaining 15 kilometers, I ride by myself. The wind picks up and the weather worsens – it is now quite wet. I persevere and cross the finish line in 4:59:49, beating my five hour goal by a mere 11 seconds! Today’s effort placed me 142nd out of 376 M20-34 finishers, and 810th out of 3605 overall.

Although I was happy finishing the race under five hours, I left knowing I could have done better. Had I had my usual breakfast (rolled oats), I would have been able to keep up with the bunch I was with and better my time by 10 minutes. Next year’s goal is under 4:45. To do that I plan to start in Group 2 and eat a proper breakfast!

Wisdom teeth

It has become a rite of passage. In your senior years of high school, out come your wisdom teeth and on come the braces. All for your pearly whites! Unfortunately my teeth have always been “straight enough” and getting braces would have been a waste of money!

A few months back at a routine checkup my dentist takes an X-ray of my teeth after I suspect I need fillings. I was right – I had three cavities and needed fillings! Out of curiosity I have a look at the X-ray. To my alarm, there appears to be some teeth lying horizontally! I learn that these are my wisdom teeth and my dentist recommends that they be removed.

I schedule an appointment with an oral surgeon. After a panoramic X-ray scan, the news is not good. All four wisdom teeth removed and the ones in the lower jaw are very close to the inferior alveolar nerve. Accordingly, the surgeon tells me that in my case, there is a much higher chance of nerve damage, with the potential to lose feeling to my lips and chin! He recommends that I leave the lower wisdom teeth in.

Upset, I rush back home and do some research of my own. I trawl through the web looking at gory Youtube videos of wisdom teeth removal and read of horror stories of operations gone horribly wrong. I worry myself sick with the prospect of having nerve damage post-operation. Although my teeth are not troubling me, I read that horizontally impacted like mine usually cause problems down the track. I also read that the likelihood of complications increases with age. Later on in life the teeth are harder to remove (they have fully developed), the jaw bone is a lot harder and takes longer to heal.

I decide it is best to get a second opinion. Fortunately, one of my colleagues knows of a really good surgeon. He makes an introduction and I am booked into another consult. This time a more advanced X-ray scan is done – a Cone Beam CT. I meet the surgeon who shows me the scan. A few clicks later the software highlights the nerve and gives a 3D rendering of where it runs in relation to the impacted teeth. It is close – quite possibly touches – but he assures me that there will be a low risk of nerve damage. He is also a very experienced surgeon and hasn’t had a patient with nerve damage. This is comforting news.

I bite the bullet. Surgery is scheduled for 8:30am, Tuesday 4th November 2014!

Since the operation is to be under general anesthetic, it is imperative that I have a caregiver pick me up after the surgery and be supervised for the following 24 hours. My colleague Grant generously offers to pick me up after the surgery and his parents even more generously offer me a bed at their place while I recover! I graciously accept their generosity!

Tuesday dawns and I catch the bus down to the clinic. Suddenly I find myself in the operating chair. An IV is attached to my left forearm and I soon fall asleep.

I awake with a mouth full of gauze mats and a couple of ice packs strapped to my face. Dizzy and disorientated, I start asking a lot of questions: was there any nerve damage? How many wisdom teeth were removed? How long have I been in recovery? Can I have a copy of the Cone Beam CT scan? The nurse advises me to stop talking and bite on the gauze. Persistent in my way, I ask for a notepad and continue my inquisition. Apparently I am the first she’s seen that asks for a notepad in recovery! My surgeon returns who confirms the surgery went well, gives me a CD of the scans and a small container bearing my wisdom teeth! Once the IV containing 100mg of Tramal has been consumed, we leave the clinic.

En route to his parents place, Grant picks up my prescription medication – painkillers (Panadol and Tramal), anti-inflammatories (Tilcotil) and antibiotics (Co-trimoxazole). I unpack my belongings and Grant’s parents place and rest upright on the couch. I later make my way to the bed and take a brief nap. I wake and spend the rest of the day in the lounge watching television, talking to Grant’s parents (Graeme and Margaret), and looking at photo albums!

My mouth starts to swell and by the second day my slender jaw line becomes flush with my cheekbones! Feeling slowly is restored to my lower face and I’m relieved that I have suffered no nerve damage. With curiosity, I maneuver my tongue to back of my mouth and ‘feel’ the wounds. I can feel the four sites where the wisdom teeth were removed.

It is now Wednesday and Graeme and Margaret note my perkiness and were surprised by my speedy recovery. One of the benefits of being fit! A meager 35 hours after the operation, I even find me playing indoor soccer!

Grant picks me up from Graeme and Margaret’s place Thursday morning. After two days off, I am back at work (albeit with a half day resume). Back at the flat, I explore the Cone Beam CT scan and manage to replicate the tooth-nerve rendering I recall the surgeon showing me. Fascinating stuff!

It is approaching a week after the surgery and so far so good. I am off the painkillers and have finished my dose of antibiotics. My teeth from time to time hurt, oddly the ones at the front! I have virtually no bleeding and cheeks are no longer swollen. Part of the gum on occasion gets between the second molars, something I’ll ask if I can get remedied at my follow up visit.

Getting my wisdom teeth removed was not nearly as traumatic as I was anticipating. This is bound to be specific to each case so mileage may vary! I am glad I sought a second opinion and believe that both the very experienced surgeon and seeing the CT scan myself gave me the confidence to go through with the operation.

 

 

 

Coromandel K2!

If you are a bit like me and relish challenges, look no further than the Coromandel K2! But don’t take my word for it. The K2 is reportedly “the toughest one day cycle challenge in the Southern Hemisphere“! This year, the K2 starts at Coromandel (each year it rotates between Coromandel/Thames/Tairua/Whitianga townships).

I had great ambitions for my K2 with plans to finish with a time of 6:15. It is a demanding 192km course with 2,300m of hill climbing! In preparation I knew I had to hit the Waitaks and do longer rides than I usually do. The months go by and suddenly November is upon me. I have not done enough riding or any hill repeats!

Realizing my preparation was not adequate, I drive down to Coromandel at 4 a.m. from Auckland on the morning of the race. I am a sucker for punishment.

I collect my timing chip and race number. Like last year, I ambitiously sign up for Group 3. This group consists of riders aiming to break 6 hours.

I am at the start line and the race begins! The Coromandel-Thames is the easiest of the four stages and is a good one to start with. Before for I know it, I have passed Thames and am part way up Kopu Hill, the largest of the hills on the circuit. It involves a 425m climb over 14km… it’s one long hill! My legs are feeling fine but I am already the tailing Charlie of the bunch. There a brief downhill section and that’s where I get dropped. I timidly roll down the hill and watch the group race into the distance.

Fortunately I am not the only orphaned rider. Slowly, another group forms and we make headway and arrive in Tairua. Next up: Pumpkin Hill! My legs are tiring. Again, I get dropped partway up the hill. Knowing my target time of 6:15 was in jeopardy, I put in a last ditch effort attempt to catch up to the bunch. A lot of effort but to no avail! The groups are now few and far in between; I ride most of the remaining course solo.

I roll into Whitianga and brace myself for the last 43km stage of the ride. From last year’s attempt I know that this is the hardest stage of all. I look at my watch and notice that over the 160km I have biked so far my average speed is 31km/h. Not too bad I say to myself. If only it was flat from here I might stand a chance of finishing by 6:15!

Unfortunately, the last 32km is anything but flat! The previous hills have taken their toll, and in conjunction with my inadequate preparation, my legs are well spent. I crawl up each hill but through shear fortitude I continue to pedal. I pass a rider who gets off their bike to clasp their inflamed thighs in great agony! The K2 is one tough course and takes no prisoners!

Fortuitously, the last stage has extra aid stations. Otherwise I would have tempted dehydration. I toss my empty bottles and pick up ones filled with water. It is 2pm and is quite hot! The wind has started to pick up and to make matters worse, it is a head wind!

Finally, one more hill to go! The infamous Whangapoua Hill! Although it is not quite as tall as Kopu, it is a lot steeper and is a really rough hill to finish the ride with! Again, through sheer determination, one pedal at a time, I navigate hairpin turns and arrive at the top of Whangapoua. It is all downhill from here to the finish line. Oddly, it is my fingers – not my legs – which are getting a workout. The descent feels like a mirror image of the ascent. There’s a succession of 25km/h turns followed by a 15km/h one! Yes, it is one corner you don’t want to mess with!

I am glad to see the finish line and finish with an official time of 6:39:13, some 25 minutes slower than my target time. Later on I find out that I was 202/542 to cross the finish line, and 32/59 in my category. Could be better and room for improvement!

Next time:

  • Training: sort out a hilly route and stick to it!
  • Consider changing to a cassette with an easier low gear.
  • Nutrition was adequate: I took two bananas, four energy gels and two bottles (one water, one electrolytes). On the course, I picked up two bananas, three bottles (two water, two electrolytes) and a handful of jelly beans.