Thursday, 15 March 2018

Moments and Memories {2018 NZHL XRACE Recap}

If there's one thing that life has taught me so far, it's that moments and memories are what makes us truly rich. Call me sentimental and call me soppy, but I'm determined to carry what I learnt from this hugely expensive lesson with me. Always.

Which brings me to this weekend's NZHL XRACE event. What an incredible concept! Especially for live-in-the-moment aficionados like myself. Miss K and I won an entry into the Hutt City event compliments of parkrun and New Zealand Home Loans (NZHL), and we couldn't be more thankful. Especially since we're bang in the middle of our "no big $$$ races" year!

So what exactly is XRACE? It's a cross between a running race and adventure challenge where families enter as parent-child teams of two. The race course spans approximately 3 km, with 10 challenges spread throughout this distance. Most of the challenges are "mystery challenges" that are only revealed on the day of the event, but one or two are also revealed beforehand to give parents and children the opportunity to spend some quality time together preparing.  

Since the minimum age to enter the event is six, poor J Bear had to sit this one out. He was, however, our No. 1 supporter - we can't wait for him to join in the action in two years' time!    

Pre-race with our main cheer master. Beautiful Petone Beach!
Miss K and I are birds of a feather when it comes to feeling the need to be properly prepared for everything. Needless to say we perfected our secret handshake (the challenge that was revealed beforehand) weeks in advance and studied the challenge booklet to the very last word and full stop, ha!

Pre-race. Studying the first clue card like a true mom-nerd.

And before we knew it, we were off! I initially feared that the race distance might be too long for Miss K, but my fears were quickly put to rest. She literally dragged me by the hand the entire time!  

And we're off...! 
Our challenges involved recreating block structures from pictures, memory puzzles, three-legged running/walking, tug of war, some fun hula hoop and mat-challenges where we had to team up with other teams, face painting, blindfolded voice-guiding, creating Kiwiana art, making key rings and, of course, rocking our secret handshake.   

Miss K writing down some car model names for one of the challenges.

Creating Kiwiana art! We painted a beautiful, red Anzac poppy. Note our Number 1 supporter in the foreground!

Man, did we have fun! We laughed, we giggled, and we made some memories for life. And I must say that Missy K astounded me with the way in which she tackled each challenge. In fact, she totally kicked my butt in more than one...! So focused, determined and patient. I'm a proud mama! 

And, before we knew it, it was time to head to the finish line.

Making our way to the finish line, eagerly awaited by our cheerleader!  

We each got a big ol' medal, and high fives and hugs from our boys. A 2018 highlight, for sure! 


[Photo by NZHL.]

A big thank you to NZHL and parkrun for a morning filled with memorable moments. See you next year!

Monday, 26 February 2018

How to stay motivated when your racing budget is tight

I have the best news: Our residence visas were issued two weeks ago! Which means that we can now stay in New Zealand permanently... Happy dance! It's been a long year of form submissions, English exams, requesting docs from SA, waiting, following up, and waiting some more. But it's all been worth it. Our residence visas are safely in our passports and it feels like we can now truly start settling in and carving out our new life here. Happiness!

But what does this have to do with motivation and racing, you ask? Plenty, actually. Because, you see, emigration is a hugely expensive process. And while I'm itching (ITCHING!!) to run the whole of New Zealand, Australia and all the other nearby gems (Fiji, Samoa, Rarotonga... Ahhhhh!), we've very level-headedly decided to pay back our emigration debt first. Work first, then play, right?

So, in the spirit of frugality, I've committed to entering no big $$$ races this year. I've mentioned before that NZ race entry fees are, from a South African point of view, super steep. Add to that travel and accommodation expenses, and you easily end up paying major money for a quick running weekend getaway. Money that we could have made a dent in our emigration debt instead. 

But how will I stay motivated? Won't training for a whole year without any race goals feel a bit... well... pointless? I'm sure it will - at some stage. But I'm determined to push through. And while 2018 is still in its infancy, I've already discovered some nifty ways in which to stay motivated without a big racing budget. Here they are:

  • parkrun! You saw this one coming, right? But seriously, though: What could be better than a free, timed 5K event every, single Saturday of the year? One that promptly e-mails you your results, posts free event photos and rewards you with free technical running gear after reaching specific attendance goals? The answer? Nothing. Nothing could be better. Especially if you're on a tight racing budget.
parkrun! [Photo by Jeff Stark.]
  • Support smaller, local club events. There is a local Summer 5K Series in our area, and while entry (for non-club members) isn't free, it pales in comparison to that of the bigger city races. Plus it has some pretty cool spot prizes up for grabs too.
  • Enter all the race entry giveaways you can find! You never know, right? I recently won an XRace entry for Miss K and me through one such competition - one that would have set us back +-R660 if we had to pay for it ourselves. Score!
  • Be on the lookout for free, sponsored running events in your area. For example, Powerade sponsors an annual Powerade Challenge in our neck of the woods. You simply sign up (for free), get a wristband, run the course whenever you like (within the promotional period), and scan your wristband after you're done. Plus you get a free Powerade every time you complete the course! Garmin NZ is also hosting some free running events this year, with Christchurch and Auckland locations having been confirmed so far. And the best part? One lucky participant at each event will win a Garmin Forerunner 935!
  • Think long-term. While it's definitely too early to start training for a 2019 event now, nothing is stopping you from sorting out some form and imbalance issues in the meantime. Identify those imbalances, find exercises to target them and get going. By the time 2019 rolls around, you'll be strong, rested and ready to train.
So while it definitely isn't easy, and the FOMO is very real, this is something that I really want to do. And you know what? Come 2019, exploring on the run will be twice as sweet! Bring it!


Tuesday, 6 February 2018

On top of the world {Running the Paekakariki Escarpment Track}

One Saturday morning, shortly after arriving in New Zealand, we took a family trip down to Wellington. We traveled south on State Highway 1, with the turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean to our right, and the lush, green hills of the Akatarawa Range to our left. It was glorious. And while we were chatting, gawking at the beauty, something suddenly caught my eye. There, high up on the escarpment, about to cross a rickety swing brige, was a speck in bright red shorts. He was bounding down a track, long hair flowing in the wind, and no doubt had a huge smile on his face. And from that moment on, I wanted to run the escarpment too. 

Fast forward to a year and four months later, and I finally got my turn. We ran the escarpment! Will surprised me by taking Monday off work, and since the kids were both in school, we had a whole morning of running to ourselves.

We drove down to Paekakariki, where the Escarpment Track ends, hopped on a train, and traveled plus-minus 10 km south to the start of the track in Pukerua Bay. (You can obviously tackle the track from either side, but we chose to do it this way around, since it is more of a climb and apparently better to do on a windy day.)

The compulsory pre-run jumping pic taken at the train station. We nailed it.
We're headed up there!

After a mishap with getting off the train (long story), and a subsequent detour which cost us 25 precious minutes of time, we finally set off. 

And it wasn't long before we started climbing... and climbing... and climbing some more. Holy quad burn! We (foolishly?) ran up the first couple of flights of stairs, but soon slowed down to a walk. Or more like a hunched crawl? Yes, they're every bit as brutal as they seem. 

But the view from the top was so, so worth it! What a beautiful place we live in.

Soooo windy! Our caps only blew off a combined four times on the day.

As we started making our way down the hills, and constant climbing gave way to sections of level(-ish) running through closed canopy forest, I couldn't help but grin from ear to ear. And while I very rarely whoop with delight while doing something, I just couldn't help myself this time. I was happy to the bone. 

We completed the track in 1:22:58, with fifteen minutes left to spare before J Bear's pick-up time at kindy.  

So if, on Monday morning, you were driving down State Highway 1 and you spotted a bright pink speck crossing a rickety swing bridge, that was me. And I was in my element!  

We did it!

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Monthly Catch-up: January 2018

I thought I'd get back into the habit of posting catch-up posts at the end of each month! Checking in more frequently gives me short-term motivation to keep chasing my annual running goals, plus it gives me the chance to share bits and bobs that I haven't shared throughout the month. So here goes! 

Favourite run

We had so many fun family runs in January! Will had 2.5 weeks of leave, which was heavenly, and most of our runs during this time included the whole family. And you know how much I love those! But if I had to choose a favourite favourite, it would be our New Year's Day parkrun double. It was our first time doing one as a family and I really hope it won't be our last!
First half of our New Year's double: Lower Hutt parkrun.

Second half of our New Year's double: Porirua parkrun.

New gear

Sweetest Will got me the most awesome pair of breezy running shorts over the holidays. We're having a hot, hot summer here in Wellington and I hate to admit it, but my beloved skapris just aren't cutting it. They're way too hot!

I specifically searched for a pair of 5-inch shorts because, ahem, I'm not 20 anymore, and I thought they'd be appropriate. And while I absolutely love my new shorts, I just have to share a piece of advice that running blogger friend Atlegang from That Indie Runner gave me shortly after showing off my new shorts on Instagram. He said: "You are a runner and therefore you have a license to wear 2-inch shorts until you're eighty!". So there you have it. Just in case any of you, like me, wondered about the appropriateness of wearing short running shorts as you age. Thanks, A.  

Progress with annual running goals

I'm happy to report that I've started working on all my running goals for the year! I have to admit, though, that I've tackled some with a bit more gusto than others... Here's a quick update:

  • parkruns: I've completed six out of 50 parkruns so far - and five of them were family runs! Happiness.
  • Clocking three runs per week: Done! Three runs per week for the whole of January. So far so good!
  • Two strength sessions per week: Ugh, I'm struggling with this one. I want to run, not squat! But I'm kinda sorta eeking out a few strength moves twice a week. Not loving it, though. But I know it's necessary. 
  • Sort out the hip drop: Same as above. I know the issue isn't going to sort itself out, and I can feel that the balancing exercises will help in the long run, but I'm really unmotivated to do them on my own. Ugh. 

Latest challenge

Guys, I have the most exciting news! New Zealand Home Loans, as the major sponsor of parkrun in New Zealand, made a few complimentary entries for parkrunners available to another event that they're sponsoring, namely XRace. XRace is aimed at having positive, quality, family fun - such a cool concept! Parent-child teams of two are eligible to enter, and the event consists of completing a series of (kid-friendly) obstacles and challenges with your child along a 3 km course. And guess what?! Miss K and I were one of the lucky winners of an entry! Whoooooooop!

Some of the challenges will obviously only be revealed on the day of the event, but one or two are revealed ahead of time to allow parents and kids to spend some quality time together practicing them. And the first one is to make up a 5-move secret handshake and perfect it. Miss K and I have ours ready and waiting, and we're both loving it! Sooo excited about this event (in case you can't tell, ha!)!

The event is in March - I'll keep you posted!

And that's it for January! How's your running going?  


Monday, 29 January 2018

A bittersweet milestone

On Saturday we celebrated Kapiti Coast parkrun's 3rd birthday! 

We suffered ran... 

I can't stop giggling when I look at this pic! The contrast between the kids' and our faces is hilarious - it literally speaks a thousand words, ha! And yes, the hip drop is still very much with us (see add-ons in red)... Ugh. Just keepin' things real. [Picture by Jeff Stark.]

We celebrated...

Birthday cake!

And then we celebrated some more! 

Ice-cold, sweet pineapple and a sausage sizzle! This is the second time that they've have ice-cold, juicy fruit at the finish line, and I actually can't think of anything better - especially in summer. Yum!

Judging by the pictures, some of us clearly celebrated a little harder than others - whoops!

And while any parkrun anniversary is always a joyous, fun occasion, I also celebrated a bittersweet personal parkrun milestone along with this one. I've now completed the same number of parkrun events at Kapiti Coast parkrun in New Zealand (my current home parkrun) as I have at Kimberley parkrun in South Africa (my former home parkrun)...

How is that even possible?! It feels like only yesterday that ran my first Kapiti Coast parkrun: Groggy with jet lag and overwhelmed by the lushness and abundance of mud and water. A stark contrast to the dry and dusty parkrun settings I was used to!

Flashback to one of my first parkruns at Kapiti Coast. So much water and mud...!

And while I'm so happy to have found a new parkrun home, I still miss Kimberley parkrun terribly. I personally think its level of camaraderie and community is unparalleled. Or perhaps I'm biased? Be that as it may, it sure is a special event with a special bunch of people. I can't wait to go back and visit someday!

I celebrated this personal milestone by sporting a shirt that is very close to my heart. It was sent to me all the way from South Africa by two amazing Kimberley parkrun friends, and it has the South African flag on the sleeve. LOVE!


So I guess that the next, equally bittersweet milestone will be clocking more parkruns overall in New Zealand than I have in South Africa...? Thirteen left to go!

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