Friday, 5 July 2019

An Unexpected Joy {Wellington Marathon Mizuno 10K Race Recap}

Don't you just love it when an unexpected joy comes your way? I was on the receiving end of such a delight last week when a friend offered me a last-minute entry into the Wellington Marathon's 10K event (thanks, René!), which took place on Sunday. She was sick and couldn't race, and after correspondence with the event organiser and the completion of a transferral form at packet pick-up, I was good to go. Wahoo! (I actually had an entry for the very same event back in 2017, but was sick in bed with the flu on race day and couldn't run. So this was the perfect opportunity to finally give it a go!)

The weather on race day was pure perfection. (And if you know just how bad Wellington's wintertime weather can get, that's something to be super thankful for!) It was cool (not cold), sunny and almost wind still. Perfect running weather.  

Since I didn't specifically train for this event, my goal was to a) run at a sustainably hard pace, and b) try to come in under 55 minutes. Oh yes, and to do all of that with good and proper running form! But mostly I just wanted to enjoy the experience: The race day buzz, the beautiful route along Oriental Bay, and the chance to finally get up close and personal with Westpac Stadium (Wellington's rugby stadium, or "The Cake Tin", as locals call it, where the race began and ended).

The race route.
I never checked my watch once during the race and just tried to run at a pace that was hard, but doable. And while the first seven kays were smooth(-ish) sailing, the last three were pure torture. So many mind games...! Thank goodness for the super sweet, coconut-flavoured sports drink that appeared as if in a vision just as the going got tough... It was exactly the boost I needed to dig deep, keep going and finish strong in 51:44. 

I was surprised to see that my finishing time was almost identical to that of my previous 10K race, for which my goals were more or less similar too. I guess that means that, for me right now, a 'sustainably hard' race effort translates to a pace of around 5:10 min/km - since I ran both of these races to feel without looking at my watch. How incredible is the body (mind?) to find a doable pace and just stick to it like a metronome...!?

As for my third goal, i.e. running with good and proper form, I'm afraid things went a bit south. When the going got tough, the forward lean went AWOL, ha! But isn't that exactly what keeps us coming back for more? The fact that there's always something to work on and improve? It sure is for me. 

So for now, it's back to the drawing board with some stretching, strengthening and stabilising exercises... Until next time!

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Chasing Goals

I love setting and chasing goals, both in running and in life. It fuels me and makes me feel alive. It's no wonder then, that the parkrun concept so strongly resonates with me: It's perfectly geared towards facilitating the setting and annihilation of goals. Whether you want to run faster, be consistent, be social, discover new places or make a difference through volunteering, there's a parkrun milestone or (unofficial) challenge for that. Just choose one and chase it!

This past Saturday, roughly two-and-a-half years after moving to New Zealand, I (finally) earned my (unofficial) single-ton badge for completing 100 parkrun events at a single parkrun venue (Kapiti Coast parkrun, in my case). Which means that, out of the 184 parkrun events I've completed in total, just over 54% was done at Kapiti Coast. No wonder I feel like I intimately know every rock and tree stump on the course...!

The single-ton badge!

And while completing this challenge wasn't at the top of my parkrun priority list (tourist badge, I'm still coming for you!), I'm super thankful for a) the fact that we have a parkrun within walking distance of our home, and b) the gift of good health and running. A run is a (glorious!) run, no matter where you do it, right? 

One of my first parkruns at Kapiti Coast parkrun in 2016. [Photo by Jeff Stark.]

Kapiti Coast parkrun in 2019. [Photo by Jeff Stark].

So what's next? parkrun No. 200 is slowly but surely inching into sight, which means that Club 250 is also starting to feel like a real goal instead of just a pipe dream. Bring on that green shirt...! There is also, of course, the matter of the ever elusive (in my case) tourist badge (which you earn by completing a parkrun event at 20 different official parkrun venues). I've been chasing that bugger for five years now...! Only three new venues to go... 

Watch this space!

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

The Gift Of Good Health

What feels better than the first run back after seven weeks of pneumonia? While my endorphin-soaked brain wants to shout out "Nothing! Nothing feels better!", I'll muzzle it into submission and convince myself that a more carefully considered answer, like "Not too many things!", will suffice. Take it from me, though: Seven weeks without any endorphins is a long, long time. Too long. 

So, yesterday morning, after seven weeks of no running, six (!!) missed parkruns, two courses of antibiotics and what felt like a bazillion days in bed, I laced up and hit my beloved river track. Happy, happy day! And I can promise you one thing: Trudging through the mud has never felt so good. I didn't run fast, and I didn't run far, but man, oh, man was it wonderful. In fact, if it wasn't for the presence of the Council's crew, who was repairing some damage to the riverbank, I'm pretty sure my inward happy dance would have manifested on the outside.

And while my involuntary seven-week hiatus from running was anything but pleasant, I'd like to believe that some good has come from it too. For one, it has purged me of every ounce of negativity towards running. (Remember the running rut I was in right before I got sick?) It also cured me of years' worth of unattended niggles that slowly crept up over time. So while my fitness has no doubt slid back several notches, I'm niggle-free, healthy and raring to go. 

Does this mean I'm going to dive headfirst into training, frantically trying to make up for lost fitness, speed and time? Nah. I completely share the sentiment of Paul Tonkinson, as he so brilliantly penned down in the latest issue of Runner's World Australia & NZ

"Try to see running as a gift that you give yourself, as opposed to something you have to do. Take away any necessity about it. Choose it."

So, for now, my only goal is to choose running and to enjoy it. And to never stop celebrating the gift of good health! 

Saturday, 18 May 2019

A-tishoo, a-tishoo, Mum falls down

I turned 42 last week. Which means that, by grace, I've officially now lived a marathon (42 years, 42 kilometers, get it?). And while I had grand plans to celebrate the occasion by running 42 kilometers, 4.2 miles, or, worst case scenario, 4.2 kilometers, my body had other plans. Instead of running, I spent the day in bed with a sinus infection, lung infection and a strong dose of antibiotics. Ugh. In fact, I've spent the biggest part of the past four weeks in bed feeling less than stellar.

The birthday girl (circa 1982).

I'm not going to lie - not being able to run for so long has been (and still is) a massive frustration. I had so many plans for some fun and challenging new-to-me events and adventures. But I'm trying to just go with it and give my body whatever it needs to properly recover. Plenty of sleep and rest? Check. Lots of fruits, veggies, and probiotic foods? Check. Water and plenty of rooibos tea? Check again. Hopefully, that will do the trick to get me up and running again sooner rather than later.

An old photo. I miss my weekly endorphin fix...!

But in the meantime, I'm trying to make the most of this opportunity to do things that I don't usually have time for. Things like reading real, actual books, sneaking in a movie or two while the kids are in school, and finally getting caught up on that mountain of laundry... I can get used to this...!

Friday, 3 May 2019

This Or That?

I love running magazines. To me, they form an integral part of the ultimate self-care experience. Picture this: A few quiet moments; a steaming, hot bubble bath; the fragrance of calming soy candles in the air; and a brand new, hard copy running magazine to geek over to your heart's content. Don't you feel more serene just by picturing that? I do! Bonus points, of course, if the experience includes dark chocolate and kombucha! 

My favourite part of any running magazine, i.e. the part that I always turn to first, is the back page. It usually features the stories or preferences of everyday- or celebrity runners and I love seeing how we're all alike but different. The Aus/NZ version of Runner's World, for example, is currently featuring a series of "either, or" questions on its back page, and I thought it would be fun to do something similar here. Why don't you join in?

1. Rain or sunshine? Both? There's something really cleansing and therapeutic about a rainy run, but I also wouldn't want to finish all of my runs in a soaking wet mess...!

2. Heart rate or feel? Feel. I literally haven't used the heart rate strap of my 5-year-old Garmin device once. 

3. Lead or follow? Follow. Since I'm very bad with doing a proper warm-up, I always ease into a run and finish strong. I never start up front. 

4. Group or solo? Solo. Talking while running exhausts me. (The exception? Running with a close friend or relative who "gets" me and lets me be my quiet self.)

5. Uphill or downhill? Uphill. For some weird, masochistic reason, I love running uphill. Downhill? Not so much.

6. 5K or marathon? 5K all the way. For me, long, slow runs drain the joy right out of running.

My one and only marathon to date...

7. Calves or quads? Quads! My calves are tiny and actually threatened to disappear completely during my two pregnancies (when I didn't run for a combined 18 months).     

8. GPS or naked? GPS. I'm not really into running technology, apps and the like, but one thing I never run without is my Garmin. I mostly track distance and pace.

9. Hat or sunglasses? Both! I'm super diligent when it comes to wearing sun protection - you'll never find me running without at least one of the two.

10. Toast or banana? Banana. My go-to pre- and (post-!) run fuel since forever!

11. Warm-up or cool-down? Cool-down. As mentioned before, I'm super bad with properly warming up. I do, however, always finish a run with a short walk and some stretching.

12. Wave or nod? In my heart of hearts, I feel like I'm a waving person, but in reality, I mostly nod and smile. Having said that, I never, ever pass another runner without greeting.

13. Morning or night? Morning! I'm a poster child for morning people everywhere.

14. Hot or cold? Hot. (But also not too hot, ha!) The older I get, the less tolerant I am of low temperatures.

Alllll the layers!

15. Trail or road? Trail! After exclusively running on the roads for many years, I switched to trails a few years back. It was the best decision ever! It's impossible to run in nature and not feel great.

Happy running!

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