Thursday, November 28, 2013

New Zealand Running

It's been too long since the last post on this blog and we are about to ramp it up.  Fortunately this is not because we were injured or not running, though I'm sure we were injured a few times during the gap of posts as that comes with running.  We have just been negligent, but that all ends now.

(Upon moving here we lived in a house provided by the hospital for the
first few weeks.  When I ran down the street for my first run this is what
I saw.  I was so overjoyed that I almost felt the salty discharge of a tear...
almost.  So nice)
 My wife and I have moved to New Zealand in a commitment to stay for at least one year (you can click here to see a blog totally committed to that - running makes its way into posts at times).  This move was a big deal, and just one of of the many things that came along with it, was leaving my running community behind.  For the past three years we lived and worked in Norfolk, VA, and that move was hard enough in the running department.  Yes I got to meet new people and yes I got to run new runs, but my brother and I had done quite well with the running community in Memphis. Not to mention my main running partner on a day in day out basis was my brother who still lives in Memphis.  I have tried to get him and his wife to move wherever we go but they seem to have their own thing going on - selfish.
(some of these runs are breathtaking)

Since moving here my running has taken an upswing.  There were some pretty good moments in Virginia where my running started to approach the level I had kept it at in Memphis, but then a weird injury to my abductor (I think that's the right spelling) on my left leg crept up and really waylaid me.  Through all of the massage therapy, exercises, and stretching it persisted, even when I finally committed to total rest (I hate total rest).  It was not until I started doing Yoga twice a week that my leg slowly began to loosen up for me.  There are a few stretches we did that just absolutely hit it.

Anyway, while it still bothers me a little bit (especially if I do not do any Yoga), I'm back and running to a certain extent and enjoying some nice runs.  While I am trying to take my training pretty easy as I gradually work back into some real mileage, we have finally met a few runners in the area and other runners always encourage you to get out there more.  Just this past Monday morning I went to run with a guy that my wife works with at the hospital. He's an ultra runner from England.  

(There is a lot of water and trails that move in and around it)
Let me pause there.

I'm not an ultra guy.  The furthest I have run is 26.2 miles a few times.  And I will be honest, the idea of running some of the runs these folks do has always seemed just a little bit stupid to me, but one tries to keep an open mind right?  I agreed to go out and run with Ben as long as he knew ahead of time I was not going to do anything longer than thirteen miles.  I ran a half marathon a week and a half ago, and though I'm feeling great both of my knees have been acting up in different ways.  Having never talked to Ben we drove out to do this run, Sarah riding along so she could do a walk while we ran.  As we drove we got to know each other a little bit and we both asked probing questions to see what sort of run we were in store for that day.  Ben is a really honest guy and my favorite comment was one he dropped before we even made it out of his driveway, "Well we are going for a nice easy run.  Not competitive.  But let's be honest.  We are both guys and you know that it's going to be competitive - it always is."  He said all of this with a smile and I appreciated the truth in his comment.
We worked our way South to a town called Bluff where there is a nice park of trails that go up, around, and down a pretty good set of hills.  Ben explained that as he was trying to get back into ultra shape and that he needed to do some good hill work. Apparently most of these ultra runs go through mountains.  The route that he had picked for today was just a six mile run but I had been walking out in this area with my wife before.  I knew these hills and from what he explained I was not looking forward to some of the run right off the bat.  It has been a long time since I ran any proper hills and the last time was a short trip in Colorado where I ran some hills I was not prepared for in any degree.  This day was a little different but not entirely.
(this is the only shot from the park we actually run on Monday - you can
never tell how steep hills are in pictures!)

We started off and Ben took an immediate right up the only trail in this park that Sarah and I had not done already.  Well let me just tell you it goes pretty straight up.  I've not done too many runs before that without warm up or anything shoot for a hill that is steep enough I am using all of my mental tricks just so that I keep in motion.  But we made it through the first hill and Ben shot, and when I say shot I mean he was rolling, down the first few downhills. We were running so fast downhill I thought I was going to end up in the trees, once especially. But a few good adjustments and I was enjoying the raw speed of these down hills - maybe not quite as much as Ben but it was fun.  I'm not sure I've ever run down hills as fast except for in races, and I've never liked it in races as I sort of lose control at times.
(I have not been able to do much running around Queenstown yet but
have hit one or two.  Plans to do more - look at this place!?)
We came out of the hills and had a little reprieve momentarily but the next hill I had gone up before and it was by far the worst.  As we started up it I joked to Ben, "I've got to get you talking," as I could barely breathe, "what's your life story?" He laughed and we kept chugging along. At one point I realized in my effort to keep close to him because of how tired I was he might think I was trying to push the pace. Crap, at that exact moment it was the last thing I wanted. So I risked speaking and explained I was just keeping close so I would not drop behind. After the run was over we laughed about that because at about that same moment he said he thought, "Dang, I guess Brett wants to go faster."  Glad I said something.
(When Breakaway made this shirt I had already done
quite a bit of running globally but had no idea how
much more was in store - running around the world
has been quite a joy.  It's such a fun way to see a new
place.  You notice so many more things that way.)

Overall it was a great run and on the downhills or in betweens we were able to talk quite a bit about running. While I would not say I am sold on the sort of distance running that Ben does, I am supremely interested in the amazing runs and sites he can see simply because of the distances he can run at one time. They have many different treks you can do in New Zealand and there are nine called the Great Walks. Most take two to three days to hike but Ben can run most of them out AND BACK in a day.  What? Now that is pretty cool.  We have signed up to do three of the Great Walks so far with definite plans to do a fourth, and let me tell you it can get just a little bit expensive and time consuming. If I could get myself into a little bit better shape for longer distances and this allowed me to experience some of these hikes, with a camera of course, in the way that Ben is talking about...well I might get a little excited. Who knows? It's a little bit early in the conversation and there is much thought that needs to be put into it. For now my main concern is the soreness in my knees.  It seems a little bit crazy to think about taking my long runs even longer when my knees are complaining about the kind of running I've been doing.

But maybe.  Perhaps this ultra running is just what I've been looking for at this stage in my life.  I'll tell you one thing - running 5ks is something I just need to stop doing.  I am not able to enjoy the times I'm turning out, my body seems to tighten up like I just ran sub 15 minutes, and no matter what I tell myself my mind will just not allow me to go run one for fun.  Maybe running longer will actually save me from myself.  I know one thing - I love to run.  I've had a massive IT band surgery to continue it.  I've gone through all of the tough collegiate miles.  I've even given it up, tired of injuries, only to have my brother resurrect the passion for it deep inside.  It's a part of me and I'm going to keep running as long as I can.  When my body refuses to run I'll fall in love with hiking (which I already like), assuming it can still do that.

Who knows where the next path leads but for now I'll be running it!