Monday, 13 March 2017

2017 Running Goals: First Check-In

I usually only do my first running goal check-in post for the year in April, but I've made such good progress with all five of my running goals so far that I just can't wait any longer!  This is in stark contrast to both 2015 and 2016, where I literally waited until the last week or two of December to tick some goals off my list, ahem...  So, yay!  I'm really happy with such good progress so early in the year.

Just a quick reminder of my running goals for 2017:

And here's how I've done so far:

1.  Join parkrun's Club 100 before my 40th birthday

I'm getting there!  I completed parkrun #91 this past Saturday, so there's only nine more to go...!  But, if you do the math, you'll see that there's only eight Saturdays left before my 40th birthday on 10 May...  Boo!  So technically it's no longer possible to earn that black shirt before I turn 40.  In my defence, the parkrun event that I missed this year was cancelled on account of flooding of the course.  And, at the rate that it's currently raining, there might even be more cancellations in the near future.  Ugh, so frustrating!

But even though it's frustrating, the reasoning behind this goal was/is to consistently do parkrun throughout the year, and I think that that's being done where possible.  So I'm not too bothered about joining Club 100 a week or two later than planned.  Fingers crossed that I can check this goal off by the end of May!      

2.  Complete four new-to-me New Zealand parkruns

I dove straight into this one on the first day of 2017 by completing the New Year's parkrun double at Lower Hutt and Porirua parkruns, woot!  

I must admit that Lower Hutt parkrun was a bit of a shock to the system...  The weather was horrendous and the wind literally blew me right off the path at least once or twice.  I know that the weather is probably not that bad every weekend, but I sure do have a new-found respect for the hard core Lower Huttees who brave that wind on a regular basis!

Toughing it out with the hard core Lower Huttees.

Porirua parkrun, on the other hand, was bliss.  Although it was also raining, the route is absolutely amazing and it's without a doubt one of the most beautiful parkruns I've ever done.  I can't wait to go visit again!

Porirua parkrun.

So that's two new-to-me NZ parkruns down and two more to go.

3.  Comfortably complete two half-marathons

I completed the Cigna Round the Bays Half Marathon on 19 February and it was just a perfect race in every way.  My training went right according to plan, and I started training early enough to even schedule in two distance cut-back weeks.  I think that's a lifetime first for me!  I also recovered and rested enough between long runs, and as a result every long run felt comfortable and manageable.

The race itself was tough, because I really pushed it pace-wise, but I definitely felt ready for it and up to it.  So, yes, I think that I can safely tick off the first half of this goal.  One comfortable half-marathon down, one to go!  

4.  Clock a half-marathon PB (i.e. anything below 01:56:12)

The Cigna Round the Bays Half also gave me a band new half-marathon PB!  I knocked almost four minutes off my previous PB to clock a 01:52:21, and now, of course, I want to go below 01:50:00...  But that's a goal for another year, ha!  For now I'm just enjoying having reached this one.  

5.  Find and implement five ways in which to do good to others through running

I recently discovered the Charity Miles app based on a reader's recommendation, and although I don't track all my runs through it, it's good to know that I'm making a difference when I do.  So why am I not quite all in?  Well, I must admit that I was hoping that for every mile run, it would contribute a specified amount of money to a charity of choice.  But, instead, as I understand it, there's a set pot of money, and the miles you log only increases the percentage of that pot that goes to your selected charity.  So for me personally it kind of feels that what I "earn" for my charity of choice is sort of "taken away" from another...?  Anyone else feel that way?

Anyway, I'm also planning to enter a virtual race raising funds for autism in April, as well as a local race benefiting troubled youth towards the end of March.  There's definitely still a bit of work to be done on this one!

How have you progressed with your running goals for 2017?  Please share your updates, so we can cheer each other on!  

Happy running!          

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

February 2017 Coffee Date

Wow, February has literally just whooshed past!  It started off with me preparing for and looking forward to my first big race in New Zealand, and two kiddos in kindy.  And now, a mere 28 days later, I'm the proud owner of a Cigna Round the Bays finisher's medal (and brand new PB!) and we have one kiddo in kindy and one in "big school"...  What an eventful month!  So grab a cup of coffee, and let's catch up.  (Thanks to Laces and Lattes for the idea!)

Currently eating

Ah, eating...  I must confess that the whole eating situation here in NZ has caught me a bit off guard.  For our first two weeks here I was in a complete daze: New shops, new brands, and a variety so big that it made my head spin.  Thankfully I've since reached a point where I know what I want and where to get it, but unfortunately one challenge still remains: Food prices.  Oy.  Food is expensive in NZ.  Hugely expensive.  And I'm not talking about fancy, organic this or all-natural that, no.  I'm talking about normal, everyday grocery items like eggs, veggies and bread.  Ouch.

And if everyday grocery items are that expensive, it goes without saying that the healthy stuff is even worse.  Double ouch.  In South Africa it used to be pretty easy to find a wholesome, healthy snack or treat for under R10 (NZ$1) in most of the bigger centres.  Not here.  I really battle to find healthy (or any, for that matter!) snacks and treats for under NZ$2 (about R20).  So, yes.  It's so much more affordable to just buy the sugar-laden, unhealthy stuff (and I sadly have!), but then again that's not me at all.  So I rather go without, but then I end up feeling so deprived that I splurge on the affordable, sugary stuff anyway.  Sigh.

Let's just say that it's a work in progress.  I must add that, thankfully, the harder you look, the more places you discover with affordable(-ish) healthy things.  So there is progress.  Here's to keeping on looking and discovering many more gems.   

On a lighter note, we were delighted to find that commercial-type dark chocolate is much cheaper here than in SA.  Awesome, right?  (Or not...?)  The artisan stuff (read: best stuff) is still expensive, but good old Lindt is at least R10 a slab cheaper than in SA.  Happiness. 

The good (but expensive) stuff.

Currently drinking

One other thing that is really affordable in NZ, is coconut water.  Wahoo!  It costs just about as much as normal fruit juice, so we pretty much buy it on a weekly basis.  We've also found that coconut water is consumed by a much broader market here.  It's commonplace to be offered coconut water as a beverage when visiting friends, where back in SA that would result in some pretty bewildered stares, ha!  

Currently reading

Am I the only mom with toddlers on the planet who somehow never finds the time to read?  I look at other moms (with more and younger kids) and their "book-a-week" posts and just shake my head in disbelief.  Definitely not happening in our household.

I do still love to read, though, but currently my reading fix is limited to short blurbs from the two weekly local community newspapers, and Runner's World Aus/NZ (which also costs a fortune, by the way).  But don't you just love discovering new international running magazines?  I do, and I devour this monthly splurge from cover to cover.

Currently watching

After five years of watching little to no TV (except for the odd kids' show with the kiddos), Will and I have officially become the last two people on the planet to discover Netflix.  Yes.  Heartland is our series of choice (good, clean, family stuff) and we're properly hooked.  I must say that, apart from an initial binge or two, we're pretty disciplined about it and stick to one episode on weeknights when the kids are in bed, and two or three over weekends.  It's become our much anticipated daily couple's ritual before hitting the hay and yes, it's even better with dark chocolate.    

Monthly high(s)

Looking back, February has actually been one big highlight!

Miss K turned five, graduated from kindergarten and started "big school".  She took it all in her stride, with no tears, and just keeps on amazing us with how well she's adapting to NZ and getting by in a new language.  So proud!  (J Bear is doing great as well, and is speaking English with a proper Kiwi accent.)    

Running-wise, the Cigna Round the Bays Half Marathon (and new PB!) was the perfect culmination of 12 weeks of training and preparation.  It was my first "big" race in New Zealand and my first half marathon in more than two years, and although the distance was humbling, it just reminded me again how much I love racing 21.1 km.  With the kids a bit older now, I definitely think that I'll start adding half marathons to my race schedule more often.

Another February high was discovering that I was eligible for finally claiming my (hard-earned!) parkrun Club 25 volunteer shirt after not being able to do so in SA.  I ordered it (free of charge!) from the UK Wiggle site and, sure enough, it arrived in NZ a week later.  It's perfect.

And then last, but definitely not least, I came home one (hectic) weekday morning to find the most amazing care package filled with parkrun goodies from two SA parkrun friends on our front porch.  What an amazingly kind and generous gesture - Marina and Hermien, you made my week!

Latest challenge

And then lastly, as shared on the blog earlier this week, I have a very unexpected and exciting new challenge in the pipeline: The Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon!  It takes place during my 40th birthday weekend in May, and I'm really, really looking forward to celebrating this life milestone with a running adventure of note.  Can't wait!  

Phew, what a mouthful!  How has your February been?  And how's your running going?  

Onwards now to March!

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Where kindness still is commonplace

I have the most exciting news!  Remember how I mentioned that my next half marathon would most probably only be towards the end of the year?  Well, that might have been just a little inaccurate...

I've mentioned before that we've been completely blown away by Kiwi kindness since setting foot in New Zealand last year.  And this past week has been no different.  In fact, I'm now more convinced than ever that New Zealand might just be the kindest place on the planet.  Because, you see, one of my fellow #keepitupnz buddies won a complementary entry into the 2017 Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon that is taking place on 13 May in the Marlborough district of New Zealand's South Island.  Complete with a complementary ferry ticket to get her from Wellington to Picton for the race.  But, since she's already entered another race on the same date, she very kindly offered to transfer her prize to an interested #keepitupper.

"Picton, New Zealand" by MrsGooding is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

And, since 13 May is the weekend of my 40th birthday, I leapt at the chance and requested that my name be put in the hat along with that of other interested #keepituppers.  And guess what?  The absolutely incredible #keepitupnz community decided that I should get the prize in celebration of my 40th birthday - isn't that just overwhelmingly kind and generous?!

So, yes, I'll be heading off to the South Island on 13 May to celebrate my 40th birthday at the 2017 Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon.  I cannot even begin to explain how excited I am: A ferry trip through Cook Strait, my first ever trip to the South Island, and the perfect running adventure in celebration of this big life milestone.  Wahooooo!!         
If everything goes according to plan, I'll be using March to properly recover from Round the Bays and just maintain fitness, and then slowly start building endurance from the beginning of April.  Here we go again...!   

Thank you, Celia, for the birthday adventure of a lifetime!

Monday, 20 February 2017

Boom! {Cigna Round the Bays Half Marathon Recap}

My goal for the Cigna Round the Bays Half Marathon was twofold: 1) To run a comfortable race, and 2) To clock a new PB (which meant anything under 01:56:12).  I knew very well that Wellington's infamous wind could ridicule those goals in an instant, but thankfully Mother Nature treated us to the most perfect race-day weather.  It was cool and cloudy, with no wind at all.  Hallelujah!

Ready to run!

A haka performance was the perfect start to the race.  Being a Saffa, it took me back to the countless number of All Black vs. Springbok rugby games I've spectated back in SA...  Needless to say that I was pumped up and ready for battle by the time they'd finished!

Photo by Cigna Round the Bays.

I felt strong and comfortable right from the start.  As usual, I mentally divided the race into four 5K sections and tackled them one by one.  The first five felt good, and I completed it slightly faster than planned in 25:28.  The second five kilometres felt equally fine, and I was happy to reach the 10K mark in 51:40.  At that stage the sub-1:50 pace runner ran just a few strides ahead of me, and although I knew that shooting for a sub-1:50 would be cheeky, trying to keep up with the pace runner kept me going for the next five kays.  And before I knew it, it was time for the final six.  A few drops of rain started falling at about that time, but just enough to be cool and refreshing.
Photo by Pete Marshall.

And then, from around the 17 km mark, it was my turn to eat humble pie.  The sub-1:50 pacer left me in his dust, and I ran hunched over, digging deep and fighting the most intense mental battle imaginable.  It hurt.  And, more than once, I questioned our reason for doing this to ourselves.  Are we nuts?!

But the finish line came into sight soon enough.  I crossed it, legs aching, and glanced at my watch: 01:52:21.  I did it!  A PB by almost four minutes.  

I let out an exhausted "whoop!", plucked off my running shoes and hobbled to a shady spot to wait for Will and the kids.  I was one happy, aching, humbled mama.      

A big thumbs up to the race organisers and sponsors for the effort they put into making the day enjoyable for the young ones too.  Experience has taught us that dragging the kids along to a (non-kid-friendly) race finish can be a hugely frustrating exercise for both us and them.  But not this time.  Miss K and J Bear both had a blast, and with (free!) face painting, ice creams, activity packs and an inflatable obstacle course, they were sad to leave come lunchtime.  Success!  

And, just in case you wanted a close-up of the finisher's medal, it's a beaut.

So what's next?  Well, according to my 2017 running goals, I have one more half marathon to properly train for and comfortably complete somewhere over the next ten months.  But I'm thinking that this will be more towards the end of the year, perhaps in November or December...  My brain needs a proper break before it can even contemplate doing all of this again, ha!  But until then I'll be working hard towards my parkrun Club 100 shirt (12 more parkruns to go!), plus I'll be putting in a good effort to find ways in which my running can help others.

A big, sincere thank you for all of your encouragement and support in the weeks and months leading up to Round the Bays - it's been such a highlight and an experience that will make me smile for years to come.

Happy running!

Monday, 13 February 2017

The Joys of Footing It

The news that we've emigrated to New Zealand is often met with some or other variation of the following exclamation: "Lucky fish!".  And although we certainly are extremely blessed and happy to be here, I think that most people are under the false impression that life simply picks up where it left off after emigration.  Not true.

Lucky fish!

Moving countries comes with many sacrifices, which we were obviously well aware of and okay with before taking the plunge.  One of those sacrifices, for us specifically, is getting by without a car (for now, anyway).  Yup, we're footing it.  And although Wellington's public transport system is nothing short of spectacular, making the change from a two-car household to one with zero cars has been... well, ... interesting.

I can, however, come up with a whole list of reasons why footing it has been (and still is!) extremely good for us:
  • Forced active recovery on non-running days.
  • Way less treats, because, hello, who walks (at least) 4 km to the nearest shop to buy something sweet?
  • Instant expenditure, energy-wise, of said sweet treat on the rare occasion that the craving is so strong that you do indeed walk 4 km to satisfy it.
  • Plenty of long run motivation.  Nothing like a notification to go and collect a parcel (at the depot that is a 7 km round trip away) to get you moving!
  • Ample opportunity to scout out new, good running routes.
  • Being humbled by the love and care of others.  Colleagues that offer us the use of their car while they're away on holiday; and new friends that go to the trouble of dropping off their second car for us to use over weekends...  And the list goes on.  New Zealand has really helped restore my faith in humanity.  Humbled and blessed.
  • And last, but very importantly, learning to appreciate the things that we've come to take for granted.  

Yes, it's not all moonshine and roses.  And yes, there have been days where I have, after getting drenched to the bone for the third of fourth time in one day, texted Will the following: "Can it please just stop raining now?!?!".  

Running in the rain is fun.  But doing everything in the rain?  Not so much.

But all in all footing it has been (and still is) a good lesson.  We're building memories.  We're sharing this great adventure.  And we're giggling like little kids when we hold up Wellington's entire public transport system while trying to load our groceries, kids, jackets, handbags and water bottles into the bus in the howling wind and pouring rain and trying our best to look dignified while doing so.

Life is good!