28 August, 2010

Munted, at last!

I ran the Mukamuka Munter last Saturday, along with Erich and Krista. It was a little sketchy as to whether I'd run in the end; I'd had some sort of flu for the week leading up to the race and on Thursday afternoon I found myself out of breath after going up the stairs at work. Friday night I had some pre-race nerves and it seemed a shame to waste them by not running. We needed to get up before six on Saturday morning and I figured that since I couldn't really distinguish between the general misery of waking up early and the pain of being sick so I must be better.

[Photos from Krista.]

The weather was entirely perfect for racing: cold, sunny and no wind. The race involved a couple of river crossings which would have been tricky after rain, and things would have generally been miserably and slippery. I didn't see Erich after the start. I was trying to put my GPS back in my backpack as the race started so I wasn't even particularly sure if he was ahead of me or behind me (but I figured behind.) My strategy was to pick a person who seemed to be doing a decent pace, and to stick with them as long as I could. this worked pretty well for the first 12km --- as far as the mouth of the Mukamuka river valley where I started to flag, and the first person passed me. Going up the river valley I dropped at least half a dozen places and gained none. Despite this, the Mukamuka valley was probably the highlight of the race for me --- bouldry, rough, numerous river crossings and generally a pretty wild and isolated feeling place.

Near the top of the valley, my calves started to cramp and they continued to do so from South Saddle to the Orongorongo valley. From here, the rough terrain was pretty much over. And so were my legs. Somewhere along the final 10km first one thigh, then the other started to cramp. As long as I kept running and taking small, small steps they were mostly okay, but if I tried to stretch out my stride, or even walk (and by this point I knew I could walk faster up the hills than the small steps my running allowed) my thighs would cramp up and I'd topple over --- pretty scary given that it hadn't happened to me running before. Annoying too, since, apart from the cramp, I was feeling good. The last 3km down the sealed road to the finish line, I made in a strange sort of straight-legged waddle. It worked though. I got there without stopping or keeling over or anything. And I was there before Erich, 3hr:41mins, not quite as fast as Steve was last year and well behind the winning time which was a pinch under 3hrs, but fast enough that I was pleased with myself. Erich was about 13 minutes behind me and Krista was a fair bit behind him, though still grinning a whole lot when she finished.

Mukamuka Munter

15 August, 2010

Putting things in boxes

I'm sick as a dog today, with some nasty fluey/cold thing that came on super fast. (Erich will hoping that it slows me down for the race next Saturday but he won't be so lucky!) One consequence of this bug is a lot of sitting around at home, hence these two posts in quick succession. Another consequence is more packing.

N. and I bought a little apartment the other month and so I've been spending my spare (and occasionally un-spare) time putting things in boxes. (N. would have been boxing things too, but she's in Japan.)

Lots of Boxes! (And evidence, in case you ever needed it, that the cameras in phones are pretty crappy.)

The moving date is just under three weeks away but, other than taking a couple of days off work, I don't think it would have been possible to get everything done in time without starting as early as I did. Though I do admit that I shouldn't have packed all the tin openers over a month before moving --- I had a bit of trouble when it came time to get the beans and tomatoes out of their tins for my re-fried bean the other night.

The apartment we're moving to is quite a bit smaller than out current place, but quite a bit nicer too --- at least we think so. I don't have any of my own photos of the place but I've snaffeled the low-res. ones that the Real Estate Agent used for the advertising on her webpage (don't tell), with all the lovely furniture from the current/previous owners.

(you can click on the wizz-bang slide-show to go through to the Picasa album.)

When puncture protection is no protection

Flat tyres are the curse of my cycling life. There are few things less pleasant than having to stop on the side of a busy road, in bad weather, to change a bike tyre which is covered in who-knows-what-toxic-road-sludge and all because some drunken moron (who will probably run me over in a month's time) threw his empty beer bottle out the car window. At one point I was getting a puncture every couple of weeks until i) I got into the habit of regularly inspecting my bike tyres for sharp objects which were stuck in the rubber but hadn't yet caused a puncture, and ii) got myself some tyre liners from Slime. Slime are the folks who make those fancy tyre tubes filled with some goop that is supposed to be self-sealing if you get a puncture. I'm not sure exactly how the goop works but I imagined that it could glue a tube to a tyre, or leave you with a slow leak that couldn't be patched afterwards of something. The tyre liners, however, are nice and basic --- a thin(-ish) strip of some flexible plasticy stuff. It feels sort of soft if you poke it but it seems to stop things making their way into the tube if they puncture the outer tyre casing. I've had a pretty good run with the slime liners so far, a few thousand kms cycled with no flats --- though I've still had to replace a couple of tyres when they got so cut up that they started to split. But even then, the tube stayed fine --- until last Thursday when I was cycling home down the side of State Highway 2 heading into Wellington. I felt that dreaded squishy feeling coming from my rear wheel. Luckily, I was on the part of the road where it is possible to climb over the barrier on the side of the road and use the track/cesspit/official cycleway to change my tyre, with an extra couple of metres between me and the cars. I couldn't see anything obvious stuck in the outside of my tyre. (I've learned to always look for things after replacing a tube only to have the new tube be punctured by the same piece of glass still stuck in the tyre.) The slime liners still looked fine too; but there was an obvious hole in my tube, running along a thin line. It seems that where the ends of the slime liner overlap the upper-most end had been pressing slightly into the tube (I try to keep my tyres at about 120PSI) and had pressed all the way through. So --- a puncture from my puncture protection. I'll stick with the tyre liners anyway though. I've certainly had far, far fewer punctures since I've been using them. It's just annoying that I don't seem to be able to get free of this problem of flat bike tyres.

05 August, 2010

Running, not running

I see it's almost a month since I last posted something. What have I been doing with my time? Not so much of interest it seems. Though I did run the last two races of the Wellington xterra trail running series.

The third race of the series was held out at Belmont regional park over a nice trail which climbed to an open ridge, descended a reasonably steep & rocky track then followed the Horokiwi stream (I think) for a bit to give the event a real off-road feel (and some chilly wet feet) before a final climb near the finish. This was the only race from the series with good weather. The sun on the top sections of the course and the views over Wellington harbour made it hard not to pause and admire the scenery --- maybe I can attribute my place of 6th to too much atching the views and not enough running; though I placed 3rd in the open men's division which sounds more respectable.

I'd been increasingly slack about training for these races, which, given that I started them without much training in the first place, means not much training at all. Training for the Belmont run consisted of a single trip to Central Park in Brooklyn and running up the hill there a couple of times. Still, that's one more run than I did in the three weeks between the third race and the final race, last Sunday.

The series finished with a (not-very-much-) starlight run at the Wainuiomata mountain bike park. The trail there was supposed to be pretty much the same as the Wainui Mountain run which Erich and I started with in May. A gale warning, and heavy rain meant the course was changed at the last minute, replacing 5km of exposed trails on top of the hill for an extra 5km loop of the mountain bike park. The track was slippery enough the first time round when I was only about the fifth person running on it, but for the second loop, once runners from both the short and the long courses had been over once each, things were slick enough that it was impossible to run up some of the steeper slopes. I had a couple of good falls. Both of the probably due to the fact that my head torch was pretty feeble. I'll blame those falls for loosing at least one of the two places I lost over the course of the race. I was happy enough with my final placing of 8th. The appalling weather meant there were fewer runners than races earlier in the series, but the medium and long races had been combined so I feel that I was running against some people who were used to running double the distance of the course, and doing it quickly.

The real test is now in three week's time: the mukamuka munter. I know I told Erich that I wouldn't do any, but perhaps I should do some training for this one.