No, i’m not a runner. I’m a trail runner. Yes, there is a difference….

Long weekend in Aotearoa this weekend so time for a little RnR. Not bloody likely….full on family day on Saturday, plus shopping, plus dropping into the office to download some docs…….but at least a chance to sleep in….until 2am when the noodle appears asking for a glass of water. Kids have some inbuilt ability to sense when you most need rest – of this i’m convinced.

Still it’s a big day – because entries opened for the 2014 Tarawera Ultra….i’m there poised at 11am and manage to snag Number 6 on the registration….if this materialises into my racing number this will be the lowest number I’ve ever had! How exciting. Even more exciting to think that now things get real and there’s a big hairy audacious goal out there for me to aim at. Suddenly that 2nd glass of wine at dinner looks a bit wreckless.

On Facebook Inov8 give my Birkenhead trail run a tout which is a very pleasant and unexpected surprise so despite not running it’s a day filled with good things in the running area.

Today I was therefore determined to get out and hit the road ahead of running trail tomorrow. And I did. And my god…. road running is a bloody grind.

From the house in the wee small hours I head out to run up Mount Eden and then on to One Tree Hill and it was a good 2.5 hours of work out. However, despite an amazing sunrise over the Coromandel and Rangitoto i’m afraid that it was one of the dullest runs I’ve done in months……

 

My view this am – just add sunrise.

 

I had my tunes, I had some good hills, lush views and I had the nods and knowing looks of the sporty kiwis – over 20 runners this am – and yet it was an effort to drag myself around the place. Now face me uphill on a cold wet day in the bush with no comforts and definitely no ipod and my heart skips a beat and i’ll be tearing off into it. The roads i’m afraid just don’t do it. Roll on tomorrow am. 

Advertisements

A mid week trail running date

 

Capture

Today in history Sir Ed climbed Everest. Today in history I went to Birkenhead and did a trail run in the dark. All up I guess Mr Hillary wins on the kudos front ( I once spent 4 random hours with him being driven to London but that’s another story) but I like to think that my small endeavour had a (very) small % of the same magic and uncertainty and potential for injury.

The Inov8 Night Trail run series started in Auckland tonight and as well as being the BEST trail shoes in the world and working with the best Sports company in the world (Total Sport) they also put on a fun event.

Birkenhead – if you are from the UK you do, as Martin pointed out immediately, a Scouser accent ‘Hey, Hey, Hey, Aaaalright’ at the mention of the place – it’s like a UK law. But Brikenhead in Auckland is different – at least I think it is – it was dark when we arrived and when we left so it could be Cannes for all I know.

Odd to be changing into the trail gear in the office after a long day and heading out to do something crazy. I’ve also been loaned a Nike GPS watch thing to test on the run…..its chunky but looks fun….so tonight is about seeing how we get along (like a geek first date) before a possible deeper relationship.

Arriving in the bitter cold and pacing about a bit you start pondering the sanity of the decision when you could be at the Mother-in-law’s birthday dinner but then Aaron’s on the mike, we count down and we’re off.

It’s a magical crazy 1st lap surrounded by like minded nutcases all tripping the headlamp fantastic through the undergrowth. Couple of cries of “Oh-oh mud!” do make me wonder about some of my peers – this is meant to be a trail run. The first 6km pass with processions of headlamps and it feels more like a muddy winter wonderland event than a gnarly old trail run.

Coming into the 2nd lap Martin shouts hello as he’s taken a wrong turn and he’s heading up to the check point from reverse. Not sure how he managed that but there seem to be a group of folk with him….hope he wasn’t leading…..and then it’s back into the bush and suddenly i’m running on my own finally.

Now I love my gear but tonight my Petzl headlamp is not throwing out much light at all…..hmm new bulb/batteries needed perhaps. But with the dim light I get a feel for the trail and despite cracking my shoulder in the dark running a few months ago I manage a pretty good pace and soon catch up and pass a few folk. I love running trails (I know you’d never have guessed) and have developed a fondness for running them in the dark due to some early morning training runs and prep for Tarawera. Pretty quickly in the silence the feeling for being in the groove on the trail and almost taking energy from the surroundings kicks in. I say silence of course this beautiful image is broken a tad by my car keys jangling in my pocket and my heavy breathing.

All too soon i’m back onto the street and put in a fairly spirited charge down the hill to the finish. There i’m handed a beer from Martin who dropped out after the 1st lap (slacker) and stand next to the sausage sizzle talking with Total Sport Chief Aaron Carter – I guess the last time I arranged to see him for a beer post Routburn I was wasted on Tequila so couldn’t make it. Ahem.

All in all a great mid week, cold, dark and fun run. Fantastic idea and i’ll be getting along to any of the runs i’m in the country for. Yes more business travel looms.

How did the date with the Nike watch go….hmmm on that one i’m not sure. I had it set on miles so any time I looked down I was a bit confused. I couldn’t work out the back light at all and at home in the shower I had a panic about getting it wet. Not sure we’re going to go beyond 1st base and also not that sure that I need to know where I am or where I’ve been at any given moment – my heart rate, aching legs and eyes usually do that stuff…..but maybe I need to learn the tech a bit better.

Maybe a quick 2nd date on more familiar/well lit ground is in order to truly cement the relationship……it’s not you it’s me….ok maybe it’s you.

Te Henga or death….or both

The Xbox Announce, the Tent.

The Xbox Announce, the Tent.

After a pretty odd week of flying to the US & Back in 6 days (so really only 3 sleeps in the US), nearly getting stranded when my plane broke down, discovering my brother-in-arms Powell has got into trail running plus getting to run with him for 4KM on trail and then going through the crazy announce of the new Xbox it was good to get back to home to some sanity….

Saturday was spent with Noodle going to her swimming lesson, hitting Safkas on K-Road for some good Swedish food and then getting Noodle into Clip and Climb for a quick 30 mins of ascending before catching up on work and preparing for a whole heap of meetings to come. Top the day off at Sands with some good honest home style Asian cuisine and a lovely day was had by the Whanau.

So then I realised I needed to get a bit brutal if I really wanted to feel back at home in Aotearoa with some mud between my toes and an ache in my lungs. Where to go….then it struck me that Te Henga has always kicked my arse so it was perfect to get me back to feeling lucky to be here, lucky to be alive.

Let me tell you about my history with Te Henga track.

Just heading down the local trail….

My first introduction was at The West Coaster managed by Total Sport. My vague thinking at the time was ”well I’ve run several marathons and I’ve run many trail runs so how hard can it be?” It floored me.

Starting on a cold wintery grey Bethell’s Beach running down the misty black sand beach and passing Amanda’s cousin whose family were marshalling and full of great expectations about Blackburn running their local race (New Zealand too small you say?) I was dead on my feet by time we’d run the first 10km of hills. We hadn’t even gotten onto Te Henga yet!

Running through the estuary around the crazy HUGE sand dunes and doing at least a km in fast running water I was exhausted, happy but pretty sure this was an insane race. And we still hadn’t gotten to Te Henga….by now I was kicking myself for not doing much more than registering for the race – hubris…it’s a wonderful thing.

So we hit Te Henga track and we went up, and up and up and along a windy old ridge and I was alternating between walking and cursing and shuffling and cursing. When we got towards the end of the track and had to ascend once more (there are now some very nice manicured stairs there now – those days kids it was clay) I was just struggling to stay upright. At this point an old dude passed me by and dissed me for not being strong enough. It’s rare to get grief from another runner – not something do – so it’s always stuck with me and whenever I need to get angry to snap myself out of a malaise on a trail I think of that guy and get my rage up.

On the West Coaster you then hit Goldies Bush reserve where there are multiple river crossing and hills before….yes running back along Te Henga. Why do it once?

I recall seeing 2 people crying on the track …it was a rough old race. When I cleared the finish line I just sat there as my extended family worried and ask if there was anything I needed. ‘Just beer’ I said and slumped for 25 minutes. I’d been running for 7 hours.

Driving home I had to stop in Massey and sleep for 40 minutes by the side of the road as I was in danger of falling asleep at the wheel. I was done in.

So that was my first meeting with Te Henga.

Following that day I resolved to conquer and learn this gnarly old track and I did and I have, running in various weathers and states as training for Tarawera Ultra and if you live in Auckland and don’t get out there – go get involved.

Te Henga has relentlessly kicked my butt. I used to run in New Balance Minimus and loved them, but they were crap on wet technical sections and mud. Te Henga has both of these – as much as you want really… combine flax with gorse and mud and rain and I recall coming home literally having lost count of the times I fell over and with legs cut to ribbons. I actually did a somersault at one point – awesome. I also ran Bethells to Muriwai and back A LOT for the Tarawera training and there wasn’t once where it was a cruisy little run. Te Henga is righteous.

So that’s where I went today for a bit of pain, a bit of love and a lot of mud.

I drove through the rain coming in sideways, through the grey dawn and down to the beach and trail head where misty clouds met sea spray to mask the coastline. At first all was well and I was loving the punishment. Managed to run some good uphills (maybe that core strength work I’ve been doing is paying off?). A little gorse was keeping me honest and then after an hour and a bit of running the mud began.

Turnaround Time?

My word the sheep had really carved up the trail. A sea of mud just led away and for a good 20 minutes I slogged away through it. Then it struck me that this was waaaaay too crazy. Te Henga…I wanted pain and you’d brought it, I wanted wild rugged New Zealand and I was in it but I wasn’t gonna end my life sliding down a cliff (with gorse spikes all the way) to a brutal and unknown, stupid death on the West Coast.

Action shot!

Action Shot!

Once again Te Henga had kicked my arse and I laughed, turned around and headed for home….live to run another day and another trail but don’t worry Te Henga….i’ll be back.

Go Get ’em Noodle

Unexpected running blog today.

Unexpected because I’m in the US for work (to be part of the announce tomorrow of the next Xbox – very exciting!) and I’m pretty far from all that is good and wonderful about running that I didn’t expect to have any updates until my feet touched the good soil of New Zealand.

Then 3 extraordinary things happened today….

Simon Powell, one of my closest friends, and like a brother to me and I planned a run on Wednesday before I head to the airport. Why is this significant? Well because Simon seems to have gotten into running because of me yabbering on about it and also because he supported me by giving me a lift to The Hillbilly Half back in March and then just got hooked seeing lots of random folks pushing themselves in the outdoors. He’s now part of the trail running clan folks! Ace! Believe me if you know Simon – you know why this is significant. All i’ll say to be polite is he’s lost a ton of weight and looks younger 🙂

Secondly – Simon, Gary and I all sat around at lunch today talking running gear and runs and trails and stuff. 3 guys who 10 years ago sat around drinking and getting fat now sitting around wistfully talking about long runs and zero drop shoes. Funny and wonderful moment to recognise that we’ve all grown up/old/stupid.

Saving the best to last is the Anouk (AKA ‘Noodle’, ‘Teg’, ‘princess’, ‘Anoukster’, ‘Nook’, ‘Spooks’ etc) story. Calling home AJ put her on the phone and I asked how school would be today. She’s 6.

Her reply floored me. She had to run a cross country today – 3 times around the field. She said she’d remembered what we’ve talked about – she’d take it easy for the first part of the race and watch all of the kids run off fast then she’d strike and when they were exhausted she was going to power past them and beat as many as possible. 6 years old and we’re talking race strategy….was a moment of very pure happiness to hear that she’s worked it out and couldn’t wait to run……

So there you go – me dreading a treadmill and bad food has resulted in some pure running happy moments! Not a bad week at all.

…where Blackburn gets a bit passionate about nature….

I’ve noticed a tendency I have that whenever I leave or come back to Aotearoa I need to get out and be part of nature again and so this morning despite the rain driving in sideways in waves I decided to head out to get a quick final taste of The Hillary Trail before heading off to the US of A.

Drove up to the Arataki Visitor Centre and slung the truck in the Hillary Trail long term parking (here’s to exclusive car parking for trampers, trail runners and mountain bikers) and headed down the clay and rocky slopes into the lovely undulating landscape. Always fun to run by headlamp – seems to make the senses go on overload. It’s great to be out there again and soak up the smells and sounds of the Kiwi bush as it comes awake or goes to sleep first thing. Despite the weather the dawn was lovely and as I got to the part of the Hamilton track next to the large Kauris where you look out over the bush clad hills and in the distance the sea coming in at Whatipu it was like being back at the dawn of man…..guess there would have been a hell of a lot more Kauris then and limited bush trails….so maybe not. Guess my Innov8s would have surprised a few folk too….

The Hamilton trail has undergone a fair bit of work recently and whilst it makes for a fast zip through the bush (and no doubt protects some tree roots) I can’t help but think that as we all battle Kauri dieback it seems odd that tracks get upgraded to the point you could take a baby’s buggy down them thereby opening up the deep bush to folks who may care less about making sure they spray their feet at every trailhead.

The Hamilton track was a gnarly old technical trail with deep pits of mud, loose rock and more tree roots than you can imagine and it seems a bit sterile now running around there and the few moments of tree roots see my spirits soar as I get into my stride on tip toes over obstacles.

I also worry that we end up making our trails so safe and accessible that we lose some of that ability and edge on the trails – running in the US in March on what was defined as a tough technical trail race Rachel and I both thought it was a wander round the park compared to your average Kiwi trail. Let’s hope we don’t end up dumbing down our trails too much, we don’t want to be like countries where you have to worry about a legal waiver before heading out of the door…..and now with that outburst it’s time for lunch then off to the airport! Next few days are running around Bellevue in Washington or even worse a treadmill……..jeez. Roll on next weekend and back home to get in touch with the land of the long white cloud again!

Krazy Krazy Krazy nights….

After a few days off after my grind run on Sunday I forced myself out to get in a quick 10km this evening running with Zaid.

Running with Zaid is hard to describe – he’s an intense Sacha Baron Cohen figure who is amazingly competitive. Conversation is fantastic like a crazy counsellor who mentors me on the wonders of business combined with every now and then hitting a random sprint in once you point out someone who is ahead of us. Fun and exhausting in equal measure.

Tonight the thing that freaked me out was the sheer number of people out doing the powerade thing! Amazing. After reading Super Generic Girls blog I then met someone the following day who came up with the idea, randomly as I do. And now it’s EVERYWHERE. The run along the Auckland waterfront was full of people running very fast with their blue RFID tags on. What’s come over folk? Even on the best sunny day I’ve never seen that many runners along there outside of the sharp end of the Auckland marathon.

Just goes to show – good idea, fun tech and FREE stuff really does pay off!!

Work-life balance?

Ugh. What a grind of a week.

Work sucked this week. Really sucked. Budgeting and stress. Trying to do a normal job whilst also getting our budgets sorted and meet with partners and plan the next 3 weeks of lovely meetings…… Got to the point where I even had to cancel the Round Taranaki run we’ve been planning for a while now as I just didn’t know if I could get out Friday early enough to get there (turns out I couldn’t and was in budget reviews til late in the afternoon). Gutted.

Of course my sleep suffered and so feel rough and combine that with fighting a cold and I sound like a wreck. Couldnt even get on the trails yesterday as was under email pile……SO today I pushed myself out of the door and ran around our fair city of sails.

 

My view as I run down to the city from Ponsonby. Although imagine it in the day time. And without the freaky tint going on

 

Mixed it up a bit and ran a different route down to the office and Wynyard 1/4 and then back via Point Chev. Lots of new sites and sounds. Approx 18km I think and my goodness I felt rough as a badger! Yes few very zingy moments for me today!

Me badger, me not zingy

Guess a couple of weeks of lack of sleep, reduced exercise and stress really do take their toll. Made lots of mental notes to take more care of myself in future.

Ok 1st world whinge over and now normal service can resume…..