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 Hallmark 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!

Thursday, 25 April 2019

A Holiday of Firsts

It's the school holidays! And not just any school holidays, mind you - it's our first one as a family with only big school kids. No more kindy kids around here!

Someone recently graduated from kindy!

So while, in the past, school holidays meant, in reality, that I still had to get up early to pack a lunchbox and get Bear ready for kindergarten, this time it's a holiday in the proper sense of the word. The kids and I get to lie in whenever we want to, proclaim pajama days whenever we feel like it and basically just laze around in true holiday fashion. It. Is. Glorious!

But perhaps even more glorious is the fact that Bear mastered the art of riding his big boy bike during the first few days of the holidays too. Which means that - in another family first - we all get to go on our bike runs together now. No more scooters or jogging strollers to lug along - just pure, happiness-inducing freedom for all. My mother heart sings!


Our first bike/run excursion was extra special since it was a public holiday and Will was able to join in too. J Bear took the lead, charging up the river track like a fearless little warrior. No muddy puddle or patch of loose rocks was too much for him to handle - he skidded, bounced and bolted over it all like a boychild in his element. Miss K, on the other hand, wise beyond her years, knows and understands that the true joy of a journey rarely lies in rushing to its end. She spent the excursion embracing and appreciating the small delights along the way - all while humming a happy tune. Will and I brought up the rear, occasionally calling out reminders like "steady steering on the downhill!", or "keep left and make space for that oncoming poodle!". But we mostly just hung back and reveled in the moment: It was a prize family memory in the making.

And, with that, this spontaneous little family jaunt snuck its way into my Top 10 runs of all time. You just can't beat doing what you love with the ones who matter most!

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

The Saga of the Serial Snot Rocketeer {2019 Great Forest Run 10K Recap}

AKA How fleeing from a snot rocket nearly landed me a 10K PB

When you participate in your fair share of local running events, you start to get to know the faces of the runners with a similar pace as yours. Somehow, like magic, no matter how far apart you start at any given event, after a kilometre or two, your unsuspecting pace buddies are always there. Right in front of you or right behind you, depending on who's having the better day. You get to know their running styles, their favourite running gear and even their trademark little running quirks. It's almost like stalking someone without having any intention of doing so.

It comes as no surprise, then, that I also have an unknowing pace buddy. Weekend after weekend, at our local parkrun, he's there. I've learnt by now that his running strategy is to start off fast and ease off later on. Mine, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite: I ease into every run and then finish strong. Which inevitably means that week after week, I catch up to my pace buddy at almost exactly the same section of our local parkrun route. It's uncanny.

Finishing strong at a recent local parkrun event.

Now, as reassuring as spotting a (sort of) familiar face can be when you're at 80% of your VO2max, my unsuspecting pace buddy has exactly the opposite effect on me. When I see him, I want to flee. Because you see, he's a serial snot rocketeer. 

Don't get me wrong. I have absolutely nothing against a discreet, well-timed and accurately aimed snot rocket (although I prefer using a tissue myself). So perhaps then my unsuspecting pace buddy's flaw is not so much that he's a serial snot rocketeer, but rather that his technique needs a bit of work. 

About a year ago, as I was suffering from a serious bout of the taper crazies while tapering for the Christchurch Half-Marathon, I ignorantly ran next to my pace buddy for the first time ever - downwind, no less - at our local parkrun. Up to that point, we'd had a great run. Our pace was identical and we matched each other stride for stride - it was almost as if our synchronised footfalls allowed us to feed off each other's energy. But then suddenly, out of the blue, he blasted out a snot rocket, right into my path, splattering me with nasal mucus in a way that I never, ever want to be splattered with a stranger's nasal mucus ever again. I'll spare you the details, but just know that chunks of it even flew right into my gaping mouth. I was traumatised. I felt nauseous to the core for two weeks straight and still can't think about the incident without wanting to hurl. It. Was. Atrocious.   

I'm sure you'll understand then that I've since altered my go-to parkrun pace to fall outside of The Snot Rocketeer's pace range. And I'm sure you'll also understand my utter shock and disbelief when, at last weekend's Great Forest Run 10K, my first race in almost a year, a familiar face greeted me at the starting line. Yup, out of the eight sub-events offered at this race, I just had to go and enter the same one as The Rocketeer. Unbelievable. 

Obligatory pre-race pic. Will: "But the porta-potties are in the background...!". Me: "Perfect!".

And, sure enough, after the starting gun fired and the field started spreading out, I found myself in the company of none other than my slime expelling nemesis. And, yes, it was only a matter of minutes before I recognised the unmistakable warning signs of an oncoming mucus explosion. Only this time, I was prepared. I surged ahead to clock the two fastest kilometres of my race (see Kilometres 2 and 3 below), just in time to hear the sounds of The Rocketeer doing his thing in the background. Yuck. 

And then I never saw him again. After 16 days of zero running, and one of the biggest running ruts of my life, I surprised myself by clocking a 51:46 - mostly thanks to fleeing from (and trying to stay ahead of) The Serial Snot Rocketeer.


So if you, too, have an unknowing pace buddy whose running quirks are driving you up the wall, use it to your advantage. Let it inspire you to greater heights and a faster race pace - even if it is only to get away from them...!

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Back at it

I'm happy to report that, since we last spoke, I've more or less returned to my normal running schedule. And while I've definitely not reached a point where I can say that I'm overflowing with either energy or enthusiasm for running, I'm certainly happy to be back out there and moving.

So what has changed? What got me out of one of the biggest running ruts I've ever been in? A few things, actually:

1. More rest. In my last post, I mentioned that I haven't run in 14 days. And while that's a lot by most standards, my body was still dog-tired. So I rested some more. I took two more days completely off running and, lo and behold, by Day 16 a tiny flicker of passion returned. Selah.

2. Revisiting some parkrun goals. In the past, chasing up the official parkrun milestone clubs really motivated me to be consistent and keep running. But currently, I'm finding myself in no man's land as far as the clubs go. My next milestone (Club 250) is still 1.5 years of consistent parkrunning away, which is proving to be just a tad too far to be immediately motivating. So I had a good look at the unofficial parkrun challenges instead. To my delight, I noticed that I'm only three parkruns away from earning my single-ton badge (100 parkruns completed at a single parkrun venue), which instantly spurred me on to get out there and get it done. 

I'm in the middle, with the pink top, sporting my "remind me again what I'm doing here at 8 o'clock on a freezing Saturday morning?"-face.
I'm also only three new venues away from earning my tourist badge, and very close to completing the (frustratingly tricky) bingo challenge. Which means that I have plenty to focus on until Club 250 comes within reach.

3. New gear. The old "new running socks trick" does it again! My bestie recently sent me the funkiest pair of hot purple trail running socks all the way from South Africa, just in time to kick my moping butt out of its funk. They make me want to lace up right now.

4. Tentatively identifying two new goal races. Many of you confirmed that having no goal races to work towards is a sure-fire way to lose motivation. And while I haven't officially entered any races yet, apart from a small, local 10K this coming weekend, I've tentatively identified two very hairy and super scary goal events for later in the year. Both of them are completely out of my comfort zone, and exactly what I need to get my head back in the game. I'll keep you posted!  

5. New reading material. There's something about a well-written account of a fellow runner's struggles and triumphs that makes me want to tackle my own battles head-on. So I headed to the library and re-stocked my stash - it's a good one! 

6. Trickery and tough love. I've found over the years that, once I've ruled out overtraining/real exhaustion as the root of a running rut, I often have to put on my big girl pants and drag myself out the door for a run. Or trick myself into doing one. So, on Monday, I booked our car in for a service and politely declined when the dealer offered to drop me off at home. Which forced me to take a slow and easy jog back to the house. And you know what? I'm glad I did.

7. You. Your advice and encouragement have been invaluable in getting me off my butt and out the door. Thank you for running this race with me!

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