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!

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!


Wednesday, 1 February 2017

It's racing month!

Wow, with January that has literally just flown by, it can mean only one thing: It's racing month!  My first half-marathon in almost two-and-a-half years is in exactly 18 days' time...  Eeeek!  But my preparation is going really well.  In fact, I've made some pretty good progress on all five of my running goals for 2017 so far - I can't wait to do an update post real soon!

As far as half-marathon training goes, I've been working hard on steadily increasing my long run distance throughout January.  It's been going well, and hopefully I'll be rounding it up this weekend with an 18 km long run.  I've also been recovering like a champ, chugging protein smoothies and immunity boosters post-long run, so for now, we're all healthy and it's all systems go!   

I've also been trying to do a bit of tempo work in between long runs since I'll be shooting for a PB on race day...  parkrun is perfect for this, although I must admit that my legs are quite sluggish with all those long runs in the bank!  But fast or not fast, parkrun is still a weekly highlight and with No. 86 done and dusted, I'm ever so slowly creeping closer to Club 100.

So here's hoping and praying for a rain-free long run day on Saturday, and a wind-free day on race day...  I'll keep you posted.

Happy running!


Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Running to heal

On Saturday we celebrated my late mom's 67th birthday.  And I just realised once again that whoever said that time heals all wounds obviously hasn't lost a loved one.  My heart still aches and longs for my mom and best friend exactly the same way it did the day after her passing.  Maybe even more.  So no, time doesn't heal all wounds.  It just forces you to live your life with an ever-present, dull aching sensation somewhere in the back of your being simply because you have no other choice.

I started off my mom's birthday on Saturday with a long run, just as I do every year on her birthday and Mother's Day.  I ran thinking about the good times; smiling about the memories; and yes, crying about her absence.  And then, about mid-way through my run, I came across the most tender, heart-warming scene.  There, jogging towards me along the peaceful, beautiful river path, was a mom and her little girl, about 9 or 10 years old.  They ran in silence, holding hands.  And the mom lovingly placing her outside hand over their intertwined fingers.  Seeing them choked me up in an instant.

Because, you see, even though my mom was never a runner (in fact, she despised running!), there was something in that mother-daughter duo on the riverbank that I could 100% associate with.  The love.  The support.  The camaraderie.  And boy, how I miss having that.  How I miss having a mom.  My mom.  But I also saw in them little Miss K and Mister J and me.  The here.  The now.  The opportunity for me to be that love, support and camaraderie to two of the biggest gifts I've ever received.

And although the pain of living without my mom will never go away, I thank God for the blessing of having experienced her love and support and camaraderie.  And for the opportunity to take what I've received from her, and now pass it on to my own two blessings.

Thank you, Mom, for showing me how to love.  May I be given the grace to be to my kids the loving, blessing of a mom that you were to me.


Wednesday, 4 January 2017

2016/2017 parkrun Triple

Something in my DNA just can't resist a fun challenge.  Mud and rain this-and-that?  Back-to-back anything?  Giving it a bash just makes my inside sing.

You can imagine my delight, then, when the event teams of the three Wellington-based parkruns announced that 2016 would be ended and 2017 rang in with a parkrun triple.  Yasss!!  Kapiti Coast parkrun on New Year's Eve, and then Lower Hutt and Porirua parkruns on the morning of 1 January.  And, what made the challenge even sweeter, was the fact that I've never done either Lower Hutt or Porirua parkrun - double yass!!

The morning of 31 December was perfect.  The fact that I ran in a short-sleeved t-shirt should tell you everything, ha!  I lined up at Kapiti Coast parkrun, which I've done many times before, with fellow parkrunners from as far afield as England, Sweden, Austria and Australia, and ended off 2016 with a new parkrun NZ PB: 24:34!  Part I of the challenge done.     

Kapiti Coast parkrun.

And then the morning of 1 January 2017 dawned...  Bringing with it the most miserable weather ever!  I sat in the car, waiting for Lower Hutt parkrun to start, and silently said a prayer that the rain would ease up just a little bit.  But it never did.  It pelted down and the wind howled.  For the entire 5 kays.  The wind was so strong, in fact, that I physically had to hang on to my cap to prevent it from blowing off and even struggled to stay on the path on the up-wind a few times.  Sho.  It was the wettest, windiest parkrun of my life.   

Lower Hutt parkrun.

I hopped into the car straight after finishing Lower Hutt, soaked to the bone, and dashed off to Porirua, which is about a 20 minute drive away.  It was so cold - how on earth did I not think of taking along a dry change of clothes?!  Fortunately I had a spare, dry running jacket in the car, which felt amazingly warm against my skin.

I made it to Porirua parkrun with 10 minutes to spare, and spent those standing in the rain, waiting for the event to start...  And I must confess that, for a brief second, I considered going home to a warm bath at that point.  I was so cold and even my warm, dry jacket was soaked by then.  But boy, am I glad that I stayed.  Porirua parkrun is a fairy tale.  Wow.  You can see very little of the actual course from the starting point, and what a delightful surprise it is!  Sections of closed canopy pine forest, with huge old trees providing protection from the elements and a carpet of pine needles underfoot; big tree ferns; small waterfalls and a peaceful little stream bubbling along.  It reminded me a lot of George parkrun back in South Africa, but with a wider, easier to navigate gravel path.  It's without a doubt one of the most beautiful parkruns I've ever done - I highly recommend it and will definitely be back for more.     

Porirua parkrun.

I ended off the morning with a big ol' Tank smoothie, and dreams of a hot, steaming bath, which turned out just as heavenly as I imagined it would be.  The perfect way to start off the new year!