Tuesday, 23 January 2018

A lifetime first for us! {Waikanae Summer 5K Series}

In the ten years, give or take, that Will and I've been married, there's one thing that we've never done together. And I think you'll be stunned to learn what it is. We've never, ever run a race together! Shocking, right? Especially given the fact that both of us love to stay active. 

There was one event, back in 2013 when I was seven months pregnant with J Bear, where Will ran the 5K and I waddled the 1K. But while it was technically the same race, our events had different routes and different starting times, so we never even saw each other until after the race. So I'm not counting that one. 

Flashback! At the 2013 event in Bloemfontein, South Africa. I was seven months pregnant with J Bear and Miss K was still just a wee little one.

But fear not, we've put an end to the madness. Two weeks ago, we toed the same starting line at the Waikanae 5K Summer Series. The kids happily spent some time with their babysitter, whom they love, so we had the opportunity to finally channel our inner competitive running couple. Hooray!

Will is much stronger than I am at the moment, so we agreed that he'd go ahead in front if he felt up to it. And boy, did he feel up to it! He clocked a 23:14, leaving me in his dust and claiming 12th male overall.    

Will is the one in the SA shirt, obviously. [Photo by Kapiti Running & Tri Club.]

I finished just over a minute after Will, clocking a 24:25 and claiming 5th place in the women's race. And yes, by the time I finished Will looked rested and ready to tackle another five...! 

Photo by Kapiti Running & Tri Club.

So while logistics caused us to miss out on our annual running date (you can read about a previous one here) at the end of 2017, this more than made up for it. Here's to running many more races side by side in future!

Thursday, 18 January 2018

2018 Running Goals

I've been sharing my annual running goals on the blog for the past five years. And while, in the past, it's mostly been about clocking PBs, doing races and visiting places, I feel that this year it's time to go back to the basics. 

Why? I'll let you in on a little secret: Hitting the 40s has impacted me more than I care to admit. And before you roll your eyes in anticipation of me saying that I've turned into a blob overnight - I haven't. But my body has definitely changed. It's ... softer. Despite fueling more healthfully than ever and running the same mileage as I have for the past decade. So while regular strength training is something that, to date, I've often neglected, I realize that it's now a necessity. And consistency in running is more important than ever. 

That said, here are my running goals for 2018: 

1. Complete 50 parkruns

This one is more about consistency than getting closer to the Club 250 shirt. (Really!) Of course I want the shirt too, but at this stage of my life I want the benefits of regular running more. 

These days I spend most of my mornings researching running science for my (other, paid) job as a running writer, and if there's one thing that this has taught me, it's that the (scientifically proven) mental, physical and emotional benefits of regular running are immense. And I want that. 

2. Do at least three runs per week

To a committed runner this is a no-brainer, and I've been using this as my benchmark for years now. But, as a working mom with no help in the house here in New Zealand, I've found that going for a run tends to slip to the bottom of the priority list way too easily. So I'm putting it down in writing. I've been pretty diligent about chasing down my annual running goals over the past five years, so hopefully this will help me give my runs the priority that they deserve.

3. Do at least two strength sessions per week

I quickly learned after my 40th birthday that strength training has become non-negotiable. Problem is, for the first time ever, I don't have easy access to a gym or group exercise classes. Such things are rather costly here in New Zealand, and to make matters worse, one-stop gyms [with a huge pool, classes, treadmills, squash courts and (free) daycare all under one roof] are pretty scarce. 

Virgin Active, we misssss youuuuu!

And while I'd love to join HIIT-style classes sometime in future (there's one near us, where you pay $10 or about R100 per class - a bit steep for my liking), it's not an option right now. Which means that I'll be lunging, squatting and planking my way to a stronger self at home for now.

4. Sort out that hip drop!

Weekly parkrun photos are a wonderful thing. And while the bulk of the parkrun community uses them for sharing parkrun adventures on social media (including moi!), I've discovered that they're also excellent indicators of running form issues.

And I'm not talking about unnecessary self-criticism, like "ooh, I look fat", or "ooh, look at my chin/hair/nose". I'm not a fan of that at all. Instead, I'm talking about taking a good, honest look at your running form and working on small issues in order to improve your running efficiency.

That said, over the past few months I've noticed that I've developed a rather unsightly hip drop. And, from what I've been able to gather, weak glutes and quads, as well as inflexible hips are most probably to blame. So, tying in with Goal No. 3 above, I want to spend this year sorting that out.

So there you have it: My back-to-basics running goals for 2018. Yes, I realize that they look like something aimed at a newbie runner. But it's what I need right now. And hopefully these goals will also contribute to increased running enjoyment and better performance throughout the year and beyond!

What are your running goals for 2018? Please share - I'd love to cheer you on!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

A fast one {Palmerston North parkrun}

With 2017 drawing to a close, I was still one parkrun short of completing my goal of attending four new New Zealand parkruns for the year. And since I'd already visited all of the parkruns situated close to Wellington, where we live, I was delighted to learn about the inaugural Palmerston North parkrun being planned for late 2017. 

Palmerston North is located about an hour's drive away from us - not too far and perfect for a solo mom Saturday-breakaway. I love -  no, need! - these little solo bubbles of peace, quiet and running from time to time... They give me the opportunity to reset, regroup and mentally recharge - something that is vital to my sanity as a working and often solo-parenting mom!

So, in line with the purpose of the day, I filled the morning with all my favourites: Geeky green pre- and post-run fuel, Afrikaans tunes blaring on the radio, and, of course, running. 

parkrun roadtrip!

The Palmerston North parkrun route is beautiful. It winds along a portion of the Manawatu River, and while Lower-Hutt has a similar set-up, I find Palmy much more scenic. And perhaps a bit more protected from the elements?

The mighty Manawatu.

The route is also fast, tarred and flat - perfect for chasing a new parkrun PB. (Plus I can't help but think that, despite potential congestion at the start, it might be perfect for clocking a double stroller parkrun PB too...) And although I didn't quite manage to nail a new PB on the day, I dipped below 25 minutes for the first time in months. Happiness!  

[Photo by Rob Caven.]

So that's a big thumbs up from me for Palmy North parkrun. I'll definitely be back, and next time I'm bringing the family!

Friday, 12 January 2018

2017 Running Goals: Final Check-In

This post is way overdue, but I wanted to book-end 2017's running journey for my own, but also for completeness' sake. So here's a quick recap of my running goals for 2017:

And here's how I did:

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

I joined Club 100 on 3 June 2017 - three weeks after my 40th birthday. So I guess that's a yes and a no on this goal, right? I missed the deadline on account of kindy flu germs, though, so I don't feel too bad about the three-week delay.

Club 100! [Photo by Jeff Stark.]

On a side note, it's now been more than seven months since I've earned my black (Club 100) shirt, and I still haven't received it - waaaaah! First my size kept on being out of stock, and then parkrun UK changed shirt suppliers... Oh well. I'm actually not in too much of a hurry to get it, anyway - the later it happens, the shorter the gap will be between getting my black and green (Club 250) shirts, so at least there's that!     

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

Check! I kicked 2017 off with two new-to-me parkruns in the form of a New Year's double: Lower Hutt parkrun and Porirua parkrun. I've since been back to both of them, and will definitely make an effort to visit Porirua parkrun a lot more often in future.

Number 1: Lower Hutt parkrun.

Number 2: Porirua parkrun.

Next up was Puarenga parkrun in Rotorua - an extraordinary parkrun experience if ever there was one! The route goes straight through (as in causes you to hop, skip and jump over) a geothermal area - I couldn't stop gawking! Many people complain about the accompanying sulphur smell, but I guess I was too caught up in parkrun tourism fuzzies to even notice. I didn't smell a thing.

Number 3: Puarenga parkrun.

And then last up was Palmerston North parkrun - my first inaugural parkrun attendance in New Zealand! The route snakes along the Manawatu River, with some breathtaking views along the way. Plus it's fast, tarred and flat - I clocked a sub-25 after seriously starting to doubt whether I'd ever see a 24:something on my running watch ever again. I'll definitely visit again in future!

Number 4: Palmerston North parkrun. [Photo by Rob Caven.]

3.  Comfortably complete two half-marathons

I completed the Cigna Round the Bays Half Marathon on 19 February 2017 and it was perfect in every way. My race preparation went well, the weather was perfect (unusual for windy Welly) and I clocked a new PB - I really couldn't have asked for more.  

Half-marathon No. 2, the Saint Clair Vineyard Half, happened on 13 May 2017 on New Zealand's picturesque South Island. I didn't shoot for a PB this time (and wouldn't have made it, even if I tried - the ferry trip to the south was a nightmare!), and had a wonderful time just soaking up the scenery. And, of course, the dark chocolate offered at one of the aid stations - yes, please! A very memorable runcation, for sure.

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

As mentioned above, I clocked a PB of almost four minutes at the Cigna Round the Bays Half! It was a tough, tough run, and I'm not sure that I have the courage to ever push myself that hard again (I must be getting old...!). But it was so worth it. 

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

And then lastly, 2017 showed me that there literally is a gazillion ways in which we can make a difference through running. Here's a few that I discovered:

  • Logging miles through charity apps like Charity Miles.
  • Donating pre-loved running shoes to deserving charities.
  • Participating in virtual races organised by deserving charities.
  • Spreading the word. Sharing news on charitable events and happenings on social media.
  • Volunteering. Do your bit at events like parkrun to give others the chance to change their lives through running!
  • And the list goes on.

And with that my 2017 running chapter officially comes to an end. Now to grab 2018 by the horns! I have some goals lined up for the year and am already hard at work on some of them - I'll share them soon!

I hope 2017 was a good one for you too!          

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

2018 New Year's parkrun Double

If there's one thing that brings a sparkle to any devoted parkrunner's eye, it's the prospect of clocking extra runs over the Christmas holiday period. Christmas Day and New Year's Day are the only two days that official parkrun events can take place on a day other than a Saturday, and, if you're lucky, you may even get the chance to do two parkruns on the latter. Yes, please!

So, as is befitting to two middle-aged nerds, Will and I went to bed early on New Year's Eve, slept through the hoo-ha, and stood ready and waiting at the Lower Hutt parkrun starting line at 07:55 a.m. on New Year's Day. 

It was only my second visit to Lower Hutt, and while the weather wasn't quite as horrendous bad as during my first visit, it still wasn't great. There was a slight drizzle (and of course we forgot the double stroller's rain cover), but thankfully the wind was bearable. 

Photo by Samantha Beckett.

Will was a machine and pushed the stroller for most of the way, allowing us to clock a new combined double stroller 5K PB: 26:34! Whoop! It will probably also be our last double stroller PB, though, since we're really starting to push the stroller's weight limit. Best piece of running equipment ever, by the way.

Photo by Samantha Beckett.

Love! [Photo by Samantha Beckett.]

And then next up was Porirua parkrun - one of my favourite New Zealand parkrun venues to date. It was my sixth time doing Porirua, but the first time with a stroller, and I can tell you one thing: It hurt! The first 2.5 km of the course is a steepish uphill, where after you turn around, take off the breaks and fly back home. And while the second half was a breeze, the first half, with legs already tired from doing Lower Hutt parkrun, was quite the mental battle. I huffed, coughed and spluttered like an old diesel engine, while Will kept a strong and steady pace, despite doing most of the stroller pushing (again). 

Don't be fooled. This was taken on the downhill, after Will had done most of the pushing uphill. [Photo by Blair Atmore-Jones.]

We tried really hard to clock a sub-30, but in the end missed our target by 35 seconds. And while I was initially pretty bummed about this, we still managed to go under 60 minutes for the two parkruns combined - not too bad for two oldies pushing around a hunk of metal and two kiddos, right?

So that's two parkruns in the bag for 2018 - bring on the remaining 53!

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