Wednesday, 28 August 2019

A (Much Needed!) Change Of Scenery {Anderson parkrun Recap}

Spring is almost here...! And what better way to celebrate than with a quick family getaway, right? So Will and the kids took Friday off work and school and we packed up the car and headed north to beautiful Hawke's Bay for three days of family fun. 

We haven't been away in ages, so the change of scenery was much needed for all of us. J and Miss K literally counted down the sleeps to our adventure and, yes, the dreaded "are we there yet?!" popped up a mere three minutes after exiting our driveway... But the wait was so worth it. Hawke's Bay is amazing!

And while we had a whole list of family activities (and eats!) planned for the weekend, Saturday morning was, of course, set aside for parkrun. Having never visited the area before, Anderson parkrun not only served as an opportunity to indulge my (starved!) inner parkrun tourist, but also to notch up some sought-after parkrun challenge credits (A is for Anderson...!). Plus it was a chance to do one of my all-time favourite things: Explore on the run.

True to parkrun's nature, Anderson parkrun has a super friendly, welcoming vibe. The route is a two-and-a-bit lapper in and around Anderson park, and while the pre-run briefing of Naval Hill parkrun in SA stars its friendly resident ostrich, Anderson parkrun's briefing features a group of graceful swans. The latter of which, I can assure you, is a lot less intimidating than the former...!
       
The finishing chute.

The route consists of two-and-a-bit laps around Anderson park.

It was a cold and very windy run, with the rain thankfully staying away until later in the day. And while I struggled on the up-wind, the change of scenery did me a world of good. I was in my element! 

Where's Waldo? [Photo by Caleb Arrowsmith.]

Happy mama! [Photo by Anderson parkrun volunteers.]

I surprised myself by clocking a sub-26 for the first time in almost six months... I clearly need to travel more often! The concrete path no doubt played a role in the increased speed, but I do think that the new surroundings also had a lot to do with it. I'm a big believer in switching things up in order to remain motivated. 


Another highlight of the trip for me personally, was a quick post-parkrun visit to Hapi Clean Kai (Food) Co-op before heading back to our motel. Maaaan! I've been itching to try their smoothies for ages, and it certainly didn't disappoint. The Gentle Green Smoothie was delicious, refreshing and exactly what the doctor ordered to extend that parkrun high.


Thank you, Hawkes Bay, for a brilliant family weekend away. We will most definitely be back!


Thursday, 15 August 2019

Staying Strong

Like many (or most?) middle-of-the-pack runners, I suck at doing strength training. Or, while we're being honest, let's just call a spade a spade: I'm too lazy to do proper strength training. There. I said it. Sure, I do a few air squats here and clamshells there in order to strengthen my glutes and improve my running form. But am I consistently immersing myself in real, honest-to-goodness whole-body strength training? Nope. I'd rather run (for the hills).

It hasn't always been that way, though. Back in my late teens and up to my early thirties, having a gym membership was high up on my priority list, and with that came unlimited access to boot camp classes galore. I loved doing those and, once or twice a week, I'd squat, grunt, crawl and lunge my way to an endorphin high with either my dad or bestie by my side. We loved suffering through those torture sessions together, and while we admittedly spent the majority of our days battling delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), we were fit, strong and ready for anything.


Circa 2004-ish, with my bestie, Tanya, before one of our pre-dawn sweat sessions.

Fast forward ten years to my early forties and so many things have changed. Will and I have been blessed with two beautiful children, and while that in itself is reason enough to keep up the strength work, I just don't have the energy. Because being in charge of an energetically willful and determined five-year-old is so much easier when every inch of your body isn't silently screaming out with DOMS.


Ain't nobody got time for DOMS!

But here's the thing: Entering my forties has also taught me the real reason why staying strong is so important. Not to supplement running or to help improve my running form. And not even to stay in shape or have some much-needed me-time. (Although all of these things are, of course, wonderfully positive and important.) I'm slowly but surely starting to realise that staying strong now will be vital in enabling and allowing me to get the most out of the next phase of my life. I will need to be strong in order to optimally enjoy my sixties and beyond. 

How do I know that? By noticing, as the years tick by, that I'm slouching just a little bit deeper than I have before. By hearing my joints creak just a little bit louder when I get out of bed. And by watching my arms and upper body become softer than it's ever been. 

So, for the sake of my future self, I'm once again starting to squat, grunt, crawl and lunge my way to happiness - albeit on a less intensive scale. DOMS be damned!


Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Random Pieces Of Running Gear That (Unexpectedly) Stood The Test Of Time

Will used to have a pair of ragged old rugby shorts that he would slip into every night after work. Dating back to his high school glory days, the shorts were about 20 years old, and, trust me, it showed. Its edges were frayed, its once bright green colour had faded to an unappealing khaki shade, and it had a strategically placed, gaping hole that some would regard reason enough to deem its wearing completely inappropriate. But to him, even after two decades of wear and tear, those shorts were like baby bear's porridge: Juuuuuuust right. It was comfort personified.

And while I teased him endlessly about being stuck in the 80s (he firmly believes that I had something to do with the mysterious disappearance of those shorts when we emigrated to New Zealand three years ago...), I completely get it. Sometimes, either through chance or a hefty price tag, you come across a piece of clothing or gear that just keeps on going no matter what. And so it is for me too.

Back in 2009, at the race expo of my very first half marathon, I bought a bright pink New Balance running jacket completely on a whim. I paid something like R90 for it (NZ$9!) and didn't even give a second thought to either its quality or potential durability. But looking back now, I realise that it was the buy of the decade. It's the jacket of eternal youth! And unlike Will's beloved green PT shorts, the jacket (genuinely!) still looks brand new: No fading, no fraying, and no gaping holes. I should have bought ten.


The hot pink jacket of eternal youth.

Another piece of running gear - if you can call it that - that has (unexpectedly) stood the test of time, is a leather Endorphin Warrior mantra bracelet that I received in a Secret Santa-type runner's gift exchange back in 2011. I fell in love with it the moment I set eyes on it, and today, 8+ years and a bazillion sweaty, rainy runs later, I still love it just as much, if not more. The clip is still in perfect working order, the wording hasn't faded one bit, and the leather strap is well-worn but sturdy. The perfect Secret Santa gift if ever there was one.


Five hard-earned Kalahari kilometers... The mantra was very necessary that day!

Last, but not least, special mention has to go to my trusty little Samsung YP-60 MP3-player. At the risk of sounding like my dad, who only switched to a smartphone because his beloved old push-button Nokia phone started leaking battery acid into his pants, I love this little gadget to the point where I feel no need to upgrade to something more modern. Yes, I realise that MP3-players are so yesterday. But this little beauty is compact, light, rechargeable and didn't cost an arm and a leg. What more does a girl need? And, best of all, it's still going strong after 15 years of use. Sure, these days I have to apply constant pressure to the earphone socket in order for sound to be distributed to both ear pods instead of just one (which, admittedly, puts it in the same category as Will's dilapidated green shorts), but who cares? It's my MP3-player and I'll play it until it dies. 

Juuuuuuuust right.

... or at least until it mysteriously disappears or starts leaking battery acid into my hot pink running jacket! 



Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Better Late Than Never: My Running Goals For 2019

For some weird and wonderful reason, I never set any running goals for 2019. Perhaps it was because of the spectacular way in which I failed to nail even a single one of the four goals I set for 2018. Or perhaps the running rut the size of the Grand Canyon I was in at the time had something to do with it. Whatever the reason, I entered the year goal-less and drifting as far as running goes.


Miss K and J Bear laughing their way to the finish line at Lower Hutt parkrun on 1 January 2019. Apparently my running rut (and writer's block) was so big that I (very regrettably) never even blogged about this joyous adventure. At least I can still share the picture and cherish the memory!

In hindsight, it probably wasn't such a bad thing after all. My body was tired, I was completely burned out, and I spent the largest part of the second term in bed with pneumonia anyway. I obviously needed a break, and having a lofty set of physically demanding goals would have just added to my stress and frustration.  

By grace, however, I am completely healthy now. The extended rest did me a world of good, and I feel fresh and rearing to go, both physically and mentally. On top of that, I'm starting to feel itchy and even frustrated at my lack of something to work towards. Sure, running simply for the sake of it can be reason enough to keep on doing it. But I need more. Having a concrete goal to chase just makes it so much easier for me to lace up instead of sleeping in.

So before I miss the bus completely, here are my three short and sweet running goals for the remainder of 2019:
1. Complete 40 parkruns (...to keep me consistent)

In my heart of hearts I actually wanted to aim for 50 parkrun events this year, but with only 22 Saturdays remaining, that would be physically impossible. (I've completed 21 for the year so far.) So I'll aim for 40 this time around and put the big five-zero on hold for next year.

2. Earn my parkrun tourist badge (...to fuel my wanderlust)

To date, I've completed parkrun events at 17 different parkrun venues. Which means that I'll need to visit at least three new venues before the end of the year in order to earn my tourist badge. Let the travels begin!

3. Run a sub-50 10K (...to finally put this issue to bed!)

As you may or may not know, this goal is hairy and super scary for me. But it's something that I simply have to get done. I've got five whole months to prepare for it, so hopefully that will be enough.

Are you working towards any running goals this year? Please fill me in so I can cheer you on!


Thursday, 25 July 2019

On Running Fast And Eating Slow

This post is not sponsored or paid in any way. All opinions are my own.

If there's one thing I'm almost just as passionate about as running, it's eating. I love wholesome, nourishing, good-for-you grub. I'm also a huge believer in the healing and preventative power of a healthy diet, not to mention the mental and emotional perks of knowing that you're fuelling your body with foods that will optimise both its functioning and performance. [And by "healthy diet" I mean a lifelong commitment to eating and enjoying wholesome, natural, nourishing foods as opposed to sugar- and chemical-laden processed ones. Plus I'm definitely not a fan of restrictive, unbalanced fad diets!]

Enter Run fast. Eat slow. by Olympian Shalane Flanagan and chef Elyse Kopecky. I'm super late to the party (the duo already has a second cookbook out, called Run fast. Cook fast. Eat slow.), but man am I glad I didn't miss the bus completely. After humming and hawing about buying this book for almost a year, I finally got my hands on a copy via our library's inter-library loan system about three months ago. And then I shamelessly hogged it for a full nine weeks until all of my renewal privileges ran out, after which I still went ahead and ordered myself a copy online. It's that good. 



Full disclosure: I haven't made all of the recipes in the book. Not yet, anyway. But I have made a whole bunch of them, most of which I made many times over. And not a single one disappointed. From sweet potato (kumara) fries and Brussels sprouts, roast chicken and fish en papillote, to burgers, meatballs, banana bread, and muffins. They were all flavourful, satisfying and totally delicious.

And while all of these recipes are really great, the book is probably best known for Flanagan and Kopecky's signature Superhero Muffins. It was one of the last recipes I tried before (very reluctantly) returning the book to the library, and I can confirm that it totally lives up to the hype. They're filling, delicious and full of flavour, and I can pop them into Miss K's lunchbox knowing that she has something nourishing to sustain her throughout the school day. J Bear is sadly not a fan, but Will declared that they taste just like carrot cake, so I'll keep on making them. [Note that two of the ingredients used in this recipe - almond flour and maple syrup - are quite pricey, but I've seen a few bloggers successfully substituting half of the almond flour with other flours to make it more affordable. Also, try replacing the courgette with half a peeled, grated apple and half a cup of shredded coconut for an extra scrumptious treat - my personal favourite variation!]

My spin on Flanagan and Kopecky's Superhero Muffins.

But perhaps my favourite recipe of all is the one for Ginger-Molasses Granola. Holy. Moly. It's slightly salty, deliciously crunchy and the ginger shines through just enough to give it a subtle kick. It's SO much better than anything I've ever bought in a store. (And coming from someone who ate granola for breakfast every day for 20 years, that says a lot...!) I top it with coconut yoghurt, sliced banana and a handful of mixed, natural nuts and voila! A feast for the taste buds that I look forward to every day.


In short, Run fast. Eat slow. is based on the principle of "indulgent nourishment", i.e. maximising nourishment through wholesome, natural ingredients in order to help your body perform at its best, but without sacrificing flavour or satisfaction and fun. And that's a food philosophy I can firmly stand behind. To me, eating is one of the simple joys of life, and if I can do it while at the same time boosting both my own health and running performance, I'm all for it. So if you share a similar standpoint on food and fuel, I'm sure you'll love this book just as much as I do. Bon appétit!


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