parkrun tourism @ Lillydale Lake

The beautiful thing about having all these wonderful parkrun events in Victoria is having so much choice. I’m now fortunate enough to have a handful locally and the options widen the further I’m willing to drive.

This morning, we opted for an alarm starting with a 5 and headed off at 6am towards Lillydale Lake. I’d heard good things about this one so was looking forward to the adventure, despite not having had much sleep and a full on week.

We arrived and found the spot easily with plentiful parking and clean toilets to greet us. The surroundings instantly made me smile – a gorgeous lake and tranquil setting with the odd duck wandering across the path was exactly what I had in mind.

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We gathered for the briefing which was all the more impressive as it was rhyming and included multiple milestone celebrations. And then it was time to start. Lillydale Lake parkrun attracts pretty big numbers so the start line was predictably a bit squishy. I kept to the back and it didn’t take long after the start before we were able to spread out a bit and find our own spots. The course takes you for 2 laps around the lake, starting by heading up towards and along the dam wall before coming back down to follow the water. The path is gravel but not thick enough to be annoying – it was the perfect surface for my still slightly grumpy achilles and was lots of fun to run on. I sometimes get grumpy on 2 lap courses but not this one – too pretty and with fellow runners and volunteers who were too friendly for me to have any grumps at all.

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In fact, this morning’s run felt great. I wasn’t pushing it hard but managed my fastest time for the year and loved the welcoming and inclusive finish line vibe at the end.

This is a definite treasure of a parkrun. While I can’t say I’m likely to regularly get up at 6am to travel to it, I’ll certainly be back if I’m in the area and, if this is your local, you’re very, very lucky.

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‘Body positive’ and obesity – weighing in to the debate

Quite a lot of the bloggers and instagrammers I follow consider themselves part of the ‘body positive’ movement. For those not familiar, this is about celebrating all human bodies, regardless of size and shape. There has been some commentary out there for a while about whether this movement encourages obesity and puts people’s health at risk and I read another comment about it this morning which got me thinking.

I’m obese. I have been for all of my adult life and much of my later childhood years. I have done the yo yo thing – losing various amounts of weight at various times and then, usually quite slowly and insidiously, putting it back on (although never making it back up to my peak weight). I spent a long time feeling bad about it and blaming myself and my lack of willpower for it. For the record, none of that helped. Whether I say horrid things to myself or not, my weight doesn’t change, only my mood.

The message I draw from the body positive movement is to live now and appreciate the body I have. I live in my body 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so I’m well aware of its flaws. However I also celebrate its strengths. I was only saying to a friend recently how much I’ve grown to appreciate my thighs, a relatively recent development since becoming a runner. They’re big and strong and I couldn’t be more pleased with them. They push me through long distances and up hills, keeping going even when my brain thinks they can’t.

I’m aware that my weight isn’t considered healthy on a range of current medical benchmarks and would definitely like to get closer to those targets. The body positive movement doesn’t discourage me for aiming for this and doing my best to work towards it. It also doesn’t convince me that I’m a healthy weight. But it does convince me that, whatever weight and shape I am, I can live now. I don’t have to wait until I’m a certain weight to run, wear clothes that make me happy or enjoy all the wonderful bits of life. I don’t have to apologise for my weight or how I look or wear clothes that hide my shape. I don’t have to use exercise as a punishment for eating certain foods and I don’t have to justify my food choices to anyone but myself. I don’t have to buy into media images of what ‘health’ or ‘strength’ look like and I can celebrate the things I achieve in this fabulous body I have.

NYD double & a chance for parkrun tourism – Traralgon & Churchill parkruns

As New Year’s day is the only day you can officially run two parkruns, I had been eagerly checking the compendium to find out which parkruns would be offering this opportunity and crossing my fingers for two I hadn’t already done. Luckily, two popped up in Gippsland and, making the most of the school holidays, I booked some accommodation to make the most of it.

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On the way to the start area at Traralgon parkrun

Our first parkrun of the day was Traralgon so this is where we chose to stay the night – definitely a quiet New Year’s Eve when you have to be up early to run the next morning! We easily found the start line for Traralgon and gathered for briefing. It was great to see everyone beaming with enthusiasm at the New Year with many locals and visitors sharing the morning. This was a special morning in another way – my Dad had joined us to spectate his first New Year’s day double and it was great to have him there.

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The view from the turnaround point of the Traralgon parkrun course

Traralgon is a double out and back course along a winding path along the river and through a suburban park with views across to the far off mountains. The beauty of this is that each leg doesn’t feel that long and you are always out there with others, receiving smiles and encouragement. The sun was starting to get a bit of bite so was pleased to get through this one relatively quickly, knowing we had more to go.

And with that, parkrun #1 for the day was done so we waved goodbye and headed south for Churchill parkrun.

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Trying to get my head around the course 🙂

We arrived in plenty of time and easily found where we needed to be as there were lots of people gathering – those from both Traralgon and Newborough as well as those sticking to the one parkrun at Churchill. The meeting point is at the hub which is the perfect spot with toilets and shade – both of which were needed having already been for a run.

The Churchill course is another double out and back…sort of. It sounded a bit confusing on the directions but was actually really easy to follow once you set out and didn’t feel like you were covering the same ground. The track winds through the trees, along boardwalks and over bridges and includes a couple of inclines just to keep it varied. I really liked this course – not only for the opportunity to see and encourage others but also for the scenery and tranquil trail.

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There was a definitely community vibe at both events and the finish area of Churchill exemplified this with lots of people hanging around to cheer others in and chat, generally enjoying each other’s company and kicking the New Year off in the best way possible.

Thanks to both event teams – it’s a big job to volunteer any day but especially for special events and I really appreciated the opportunity to tourist at these great events to start 2019.

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Starting the year with a slice of gratitude

I’m starting 2019 with a grumbling achilles which was not in my plans at all. Last night’s walk around the neighbourhood was a slightly grumpy one as I wallowed in the fact I can’t run right now. I’m pleased to say that this morning’s walk had a completely different tone – wallowing done, I had a wonderful walk and spent the 5km thinking of all the things I’m grateful for as I start this new year:

  • I can walk. And walking is great, especially as I don’t have to think about where my feet are landing, how I can barely breathe and which bits might be chafing randomly so I can actually just enjoy the scenery instead.
  • This is not a permanent injury – I will run again soon and I’ll get that lovely surge of gratitude for being back at it. And get to again whinge about having to think about where my feet are landing, how I can barely breathe and which bits might be chafing randomly.
  • I love where I live. I have the choice of so many great places outdoors to enjoy the environment, all within a short walk or drive from my house. I have wetlands on my doorstep, beautiful hills visible from my backyard and a glorious beaches a short drive away.
  • I now have a running husband who is also experiencing his own injuries so he (finally) gets it and we’re able to support each other.
  • I’m part of a fantastic offline and online running community who are listen to me grumble about my injuries and help me put it all back into perspective.
  • The shuffle algorithm on my phone this morning was perfect – every song was exactly what I needed to hear and had me smiling all the way around my walk.
  • I have some great events to look forward to this year – new experiences and new goals to tick off.

Here’s to a 2019 filled with gratitude and, hopefully, some running as well.

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Looking back and looking forward

I swear the end of the year has snuck up on me this time around and I really can’t believe it’s already the end of December. Strava reminded me with their annual funky video that it was time to reflect on my running so here it is!

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I snuck over the 1000km mark in my running which I was happy about – less than last year but still feels like a lofty enough amount and something I wouldn’t have dreamed of a few years ago.

It has been quite an interesting year of running and one in which I’ve certainly encountered struggles. Completing the Dopey challenge in January with my first marathon was both an incredible way to kick off the year and a difficult one. After that, all goals seemed lacking and I found motivation hard to come by. I convinced myself to ‘just keep running’ and hoped my mojo would return which it did yet it really ebbed and flowed all year.

I had a couple of setbacks which were tough at the time (including 6 weeks out with a sprained ankle) but which made me appreciate being able to run when I was able to. The hardest things to push through have been the mental barriers – quite a challenge that running helps me keep my brain and moods balanced and yet is also sometimes the cause of the imbalance in the first place. I started then gave up training for my second marathon, deciding I just wasn’t ready to give it the time and energy it deserved. Yet.

Losing my Mum halfway through the year coloured everything including my running in both hard and wonderful ways. I’ve learnt that grief just does its thing and takes over when it wants to, sometimes leaving me unable to get out the door to run. And then other times, I wanted to run because I knew Mum would have liked that. It was funny that she was never a runner and it wasn’t something that played any role in her life but it had become something we talked a lot about in the last few years so I connect her with it and I know she was proud of what I’d achieved.

This all seems a bit flat but there are many things I’m hugely proud of this year – here are my highlights:

  • Completing the Dopey challenge and my first marathon. Seriously nothing has ever (and probably will ever) compare to that. I still get goosebumps thinking about it and it’s the thing that gets me through all tough things ever since – if I can run a marathon, I can do anything.
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  • Finishing the Surf Coast Trail half marathon. It was the second time I’d attempted this beast but did it on my own this time, fighting both the demons in my head and those in my body as I left my stomach contents on the trail. Several times. So many reasons to give up and yet I just kept going. I can do hard things.
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  • City2Surf. My second go at this event too but just as much fun as the first, if not more so. I loved having my husband there to share the weekend and a PB topped it off delightfully.
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  • Barossa Brave half marathon. Every now and then, I like to do something that scares me, just to see if I can. And this scared me with its big hill in the middle and the thought of doing 3 loops of it. Without my usual running buddies. I loved absolutely every minute and smiled so much my face hurt.
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  • Portland Winter Solstice Run. This was another one where I proved to myself that I can do hard things. I could have stayed in bed and listened to the wind and rain but instead I sucked it up and ran in all that the weather could throw at us. And loved it.
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  • My running friends. I spend so much time running alone but, whether they’re with me in person or in spirit, they’re always there and always offering encouragement and understanding without judgment. When I am lucky enough to run with them in person, the kilometres fly and we solve the problems of the world. I wouldn’t have been able to complete Dopey without them and cannot stress enough what a better place my world is for having them in it. Some are in this picture but I extend this to my wider running family, some of which I only catch up with occassionally at far off parkuns but who still have a significant impact. As do those I’ve only met online in the two running groups that are a big part of my running life – their constant encouragement and advice boost me up.
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So that’s my year. 1001.8km. 1 marathon and 4 half marathons. 34 parkruns plus another 8 as a volunteer. 11 more medals to add to my bling collection. And a whole lot of new and precious memories to add to the store. On reflection, I’m feeling very blessed and grateful for what the year has brought, despite any hardships. It all balances out in the end and the dips really do make you appreciate the heights. Looking forward to what 2019 will bring!

parkrun tourism @ eastern gardens

I must say, I have quite liked having my NENDY (nearest event not done yet) for parkrun a mere 22km away. There was something reassuring about knowing that I had the potential to do a new event at any time I wanted without worrying about accommodation or working out whether it was driveable in the early hours of a Saturday morning. In fact, we’d considered leaving Eastern Gardens parkrun as our last event in Victoria but, in need of a change, we ventured there this morning instead.

I tried really hard to see this one through tourist eyes but it’s hard – firstly, I know the course very, very well and secondly, I know many of the team behind it (all fabulous!). So forgive my familiarity. Eastern Gardens parkrun takes place very near Eastern Beach on Geelong’s beautiful waterfront. It really is an ideal spot for a parkrun – a gorgeous park with a wide track, ample parking, toilet facilities, a shelter for rainy briefings and a stone’s throw from the water for a post-run dip. Tick, tick, tick!

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Eastern Gardens course is a very easy to follow out and back with an added shorter out and back to make up the distance. While it’s easy to follow and the track is easy to run on, the hills make it not a particularly easy run. They’re those sneaky hills which don’t really look like hills until you try to run them and they then feel very much like hills. Being incredibly familiar with this course, I knew what to expect but it didn’t help – they were a challenge, particularly in this morning’s humidity. However having a couple of out and back bits does mean there are lots of opportunities for cheering others on and receiving encouragement, all of which were flowing this morning.

Another benefit of this course is the ample selection of cafes for post-parkrun breakfast – the team generally meet at Winifreds which I can highly recommend. Or meander along the waterfront for coffee or ice cream (or both!).

And now I’m back to having a far away NENDY and facing the prospect of a long drive to tick off another parkrun – such a tough life! I suspect it will be a looooong time until we tick off all Victorian parkruns and I’m ok with that – I’m enjoying sampling them slowly. Although, with a New Year’s double coming up, maybe not that slowly at the moment 🙂

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Four Vines Running Festival half marathon – race recap

Those who follow this blog may recall that, ages ago, I signed up for a marathon. It was going to be this delightful event in country Victoria and I was planning on seeing how I went with ‘just’ a marathon (as opposed to a Dopey challenge). About 2/3 into my marathon training, I realised I really didn’t have it in me (just yet) and pulled back to the half.

Husband and I rocked up to the start line this morning, bright and early and with absolutely perfect running weather greeting us – blue skies and crisp air. Being the first time this event had run, as well as being out of the way for most participants, it was a smaller crowd gathering at the start. The start line for most of the events, including the half marathon, was at Tahbilk Winery, just outside of Nagambie and what an incredibly scenic start to the day. We wandered around, took some photos amidst the vines, took advantage of the portaloos (with no queues!) and got ready.

Husband waved me off (he was running the 10km later in the morning) as the small crowd set off on the half. I had known this would be a smaller event and had fully expected to be last as is usually the case. What I hadn’t expected was how inclusive this event was – they had thought of everything and had a tail runner for the half. So my headphones came out and I chatted to 2 delightful runners who happily hung out with me at the back.

The course headed out along a track and then onto the road where it spent quite a bit of time. While it wasn’t a closed road, there was minimal traffic and the cars that did come through were slow, careful and, usually, full of people willing and ready to cheer us on our way. The road was also canopied with trees which was very welcome as the sun was rising and making its presence felt.

Soon we caught up to another runner who joined our merry band and my 30/30 intervals as we headed off to our second winery of the morning – Michelton Wines. We had a brief bit of confusion about which entrance to go in but, once we’d worked it out, we were rewarded with some loops through the vines and more beautiful scenery.

And then we were on our way back along the road where we caught up with another runner to add to our group. We had a final few kilometres to run back in Tahbilk amongst more vines – probably the hardest part of the course for me as I resorted to a power walk and tried to ignore my blisters.

The last stretch felt like forever but it wasn’t that long before the finish line crept up and I ran across it, being rewarded with my medal and a wine. Husband and I then sat around, soaking up the beautiful weather, the entertainment and a beverage while resting our legs before reluctantly bidding farewell for our drive home. I wish I was one of those people who has a really long weekend this weekend but sadly not. 🙁

Absolutely loved this event – it far exceeded my expectations. It’s hard to know how an event will go on its first run but Four Vines just got everything right – enough aid stations, really friendly volunteers, great facilities, perfect event village and vibe and even friendly competitors who all cheered each other on, regardless of distance or pace. And, sealing it for me was the fabulous group of women I got to run with this morning – such an encouraging and supportive tribe who made the time and kilometres fly. Thanks to them and to Four Vines, we’ll definitely be back!