Eating the bear: Training for the Wellington Round the Bays 2013

The Dude and The Stranger

“Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear, well… he eats you.”
(The Big Lebowski)

Wise words from one of the greatest films of all time. The Big Lebowski isn’t exactly a motivational film – if anything The Dude’s attitude is  demotivational (except where bowling is involved) – but the above quote pretty much sums up my training lately. The bear ate me last Friday.

It’s only a month til the big day and I am trying to squeeze in a few good long runs. On Friday I finally had time, was untroubled by shin splints and was feeling relatively fresh, so I went out aiming to get a 20km under my belt. My 20km run takes me from Te Papa to to the Westpac stadium and back (5km), then out to Miramar and back (15km). It’s a classic route that takes in the whole of Wellington’s waterfront, and when you’re not squinting through sweat or colliding with pedal cars it’s got some of the best views that Welly has to offer. The last time I did it was back in September and I managed it in an hour and three quarters, so I figured I would aim for about the same time. Had the bear in my sights.

I got out there about 3pm, after an early shift. It was sunny and warm and blustery, a typical summer afternoon in Wellington (when it’s not raining). I started off well but when I got to the stadium and turned around I had the wind at my back, so there was no airflow to cool me down. Then I really started to feel the sun. It was like hot treacle. And everyone knows treacle is really hard to run in. I got to 5km in about 23 minutes and from then on started to flag rapidly. I think the bear sensed I was weakening and by the time I got to ‘death valley’ (the bit that goes past Niwa which is a concrete sun trap with no breeze) it was sharpening its claws and inviting friends over for a disemboweling party. I ‘decided’ to give in when I got to 10km, and stopped under the welcome shade of a Pohutukawa tree at Evans Bay yacht club. I had a rest then jogged most of the way back to try and make the best of it, but I felt pretty disappointed. Ah well. Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes, well, he snarfles you.

Bear Sleeping Bag

So the bear got me that time – it happens to everyone occasionally. Not long before that it had been my turn to snarfle the bear.

The training goal I mentioned in my last post was to get my 15km time down to 70 mins. I didn’t quite manage that but I did set a new pb of 71 mins, on a warm afternoon too, so I reckon I’m doing okay there. But the best thing that’s happened is I finally broke 24 minutes on my regular round the block run here in Johnsonville (a rolling 5.47km about the northern suburbs). For me that was a big deal. Is it possible to get sentimental over a running route? It’s where I started when I was new to running and has been my ‘yardstick’ ever since. I clearly remember the first few times I did it, just over a year ago – Finishing without a break was an achievement! My first nonstop time was 29:55. From then on I’ve always nibbled away at it, getting steadily faster. I’m so familiar with the route I know my times to all the waypoints, like the bottom of Newlands road (6 mins 30) and the roundabout next to New World (15 mins). Then one freakish day in July I managed to complete it in 24:09, over a minute faster than my personal best at the time! It’s funny how these leaps happen sometimes. I guess the body is always doing its best to repair and improve itself in response to training. Then after just the right amount of rest and banana smoothies it decides to release BODY V1.3 and suddenly your personal bests are tumbling.

That 24.09 held out for quite a while though. I settled back into the 25-26 minute range and after a while started wondering how the flip I managed 24 minutes. I thought I must have rolled back to BODY V1.2 without realising it.

Then on Sunday last week an opportunity came up for a run in the evening. I’d just finished night shifts so most of the day had been spent in bed, not sleeping a lot but resting. If I wanted a run that day it would have to be in the evening. For some reason I’d forgotten about running in the evening. It takes quite a bit of effort to get out the door at 8pm. In our house that’s when trial-by-bedtime is over and the little critters are at last tucked in. 8pm and I was changed and stretched and ready to go, and hallelujah it wasn’t sunny any more! The cool evening air, enhanced by brisk southerlies, did wonders. I didn’t go crazy but I realised there was no way I was going to overheat, so I pushed myself. It felt good. I got to the roundabout in just over 14 mins and then I knew – there was no way I would let myself finish in over 24 minutes. I got round to the 5km point at Cyril Way at just under 22 minutes, then pushed on for the last 400 metres uphill. The watched stopped on 23:43. Praise the cool southerlies! Pass the bear!

Now, of course, I want to know if I can do it again. But my focus for the next few weeks has to be on nailing some long runs so I might not throw myself at it again too soon. But who knows what mischief the evening airs will bring?

The Dude


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