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!

parkrun tourism @ echuca moama

Our quest to (eventually) run all the parkruns in Victoria is now into the most challenging phase. Victoria may not look on a map to be a very big state but it still takes a lot of hours of driving to reach much of it and all of those far away places are the ones I still have left to do.

And that is why we were up at 4am on a recent Saturday morning so that we could be on our way to Echuca, 3 hours away. I am a morning person but 4am doesn’t count as it’s still night so it was a challenge getting up. The two things making it slightly easier – 1) I love Echuca and 2) the weather forecast was far better up there than it was at home.

We arrived at about 7.30am and easily found where we needed to be. After a 3 hour drive, we were grateful that there was a clean toilet block next to the start area and ample parking. The weather was windy and a little chilly but definitely warmer and drier than we’d been expecting down south.

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The gorgeous Campaspe River, taken from the starting area

Briefing was short and sweet and then we were off. The course is along a path beside the Campaspe River – very easy to follow and wide enough for parkrunners and the other users out enjoying the morning. It’s a scenic course – houses on one side and bushland and river views on the other. It is also pretty much flat – there are a couple of slight inclines but nothing to really slow you down.

Being an out and back, there’s lots of opportunities for smiles and encouragement and this was definitely not in short supply with the friendly crowd cheering one another on. This was much needed as the wind was getting up a bit on the return and the finish line was a welcome sight.

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Feel like a quick workout in the middle of your run? No problem!

With our run finished, we enjoyed our smug Saturday morning eating at Beechworth Bakery (so hard to choose where to eat with so many great places on offer in town!) then wandering the Port of Echuca and checking out the Murray River. This parkrun is an absolute must for anyone looking for an enjoyable weekend away – Echuca has always been on my list of favourite Victorian places and makes me smile each time we visit.

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Beechworth Bakery – mmmmmmm

Thanks to the event team at Echuca Moama parkrun and particularly the volunteers who dug in on that windy morning – I suspect this is one we’ll visit again (possibly just because of the lure of a delicious breakfast!!!).

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parkrun tourism @ jells

I have an apology to make to Jells parkrun – I’ve been pushing you down the list. I had heard a rumour that there were hills and, while I might grimace while saying “Hills are my friends! Hills make me stronger!”, it’s a complicated relationship. When people say ‘hills’ and ‘parkrun’, I picture hills like those at Wilson Botanic or Westerfolds and my calves start to ache.

However the time had come. The thought of ‘only’ having to drive a little over an hour to tick off a new parkrun was too good of a draw card and as for the hills? I just had to pack my charm and hope I could make friends with these ones too.

Jells parkrun is very easy to find – not far off the main roads leading through and out that side of the Melbourne sprawl. Once you arrive, the facilities are great – ample parking and bathrooms that are so much nicer than what I’ve learnt to expect from suburban parks (with real toilet paper!) as well as a playground in case you want to amuse yourself before briefing.

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The briefing was friendly, welcoming and brief – all good qualities to have! Very soon we were gathered around the starting area and setting off. Up a hill. Now is probably a good time to discuss these so that I can reassure any of you who had heard the rumours I had – it’s really not that hilly. Yes, it has hills but I would call them more undulations and the upside is that for every up there is a down. The first downhill stretch is absolute bliss and I found myself gliding down it happily, soaking up the blue skies of this gorgeous Spring morning.

The rest of the course has some flat bits, some inclines and another short downhill before the gentle climb back up to the finish….so you can do it all again on your second lap! I’m normally not a fan at all of multi lap courses but this was great – I felt like the first lap had gone too quickly and I was grateful to have another chance to go around again. And I enjoyed the looong downhill just as much the second time.

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Another particularly wonderful thing about this parkrun is the variety of people it attracts – runners, walkers and run/walkers of all speeds. I’m often out on course on what feels like my own (although I’ve obviously in front of the tail walker) but there were people around me the whole time today and it was great.

And then it was done as I ran the last up and down hill bit to the finish.

There are some parkruns I’ve visited and enjoyed but probably wouldn’t choose to go back to – this is definitely not one of them. Jells was great. Not sure if it was just the right combination of weather, people and how I’m feeling but this morning was fabulous and I loved every minute, up or down hill and would happily come back and visit again. These hills and I are definitely friends 🙂

City2Surf – race recap

2 years ago today, I ran my first City2Surf in Sydney which was absolutely incredible. I remember thinking at the time that it was probably going to be a one off and I was just grateful to have been able to do it.

And then my husband became a runner too and decided he wanted to give it a go, opening the door for me to have another turn.

Running an event for the second time always makes me somewhat nervous. The first time, you have nothing to compare it to so the experience is unique and whatever time you get is great. The second time? There are pressures. Will it be as good? Will I beat my time? These were definitely the thoughts swimming in my head as we gathered in our hotel lobby and walked the short distance to our blue start corral at City2Surf on Sunday.

My self talk was all positive and realistic. I’m not as fit as I was 2 years ago and have had some big gaps in training so, in the spirit of meeting myself where I am at (rather than where I wished I was), I was aiming for a PB of smiles rather than time. Since Disney, I’ve struggled a little with the whole ‘love of running’ thing – I’ve seen it fleetingly but not consistently and I want it back. City2Surf was about reclaiming it. Because really, if you can’t have fun at this event, give up running. The crowds, the atmosphere, the entertainment, the views – all of it combine to the perfect blend.

Actually, before we hit start on this thing, let’s talk about crowds. If you don’t like them, don’t do this event. They advertise crowds of 80,000 and, even though they’re spread quite well into separately timed corrals, it still equates to a lot of people on the course at all times. They’re also a very varied bunch with elite runners, first event runners, costumed athletes and ‘enjoying the sunshine and a chat’ walkers. Not all of them start in the corral best suited to their speed so there is some dodging and lots of patience required. And I understand that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

So it was time to start. I kissed goodbye to the speedy husband and set off at my own pace. I ran a comfortable pace and wanted to keep at that but was pleasantly surprised that I was keeping up with many of those around me. The spectators in this event are great and added to the smiles and, before I knew it, the first kilometre had ticked by.

I vaguely remembered the course from last time so didn’t quite have the same allure of the unknown but instead some comfort of mild familiarity. The police band at Rose Bay Police Station, the views of the harbour at different points, the undulations along the way and then Heartbreak Hill (which, again, was not heartbreaking). All kilometres flew by and my grin seemed to just get bigger and become more embedded. I was loving it. All of it. The scenery, the people and, most importantly, the running. I ran the bits I wanted to at the speeds that made me happy then walked the bits I didn’t feel like running (mostly the uphill bits).

And then there were the crowds. I’m not a huge lover of crowds but these were different, despite the frequent ducking and weaving and the odd accidental elbow. I felt like I got some of the Disney magic back – these were my people. People who moved at all sorts of speeds in all sorts of ways and without judgement. There were people around me the whole time, from start line to finish chute and that created the supportive atmosphere that did so much to keep my spirits high. An event where I felt I belonged.

Coming back down the hill towards Bondi, I saw that I had 3km to go and looked at my watch, curious about how I was doing in numbers. Even in long run fog, I could see that there was a chance of a course PB if I kept up my current pace. This was way beyond what I had hoped out of the day and pushed me along. At the bottom of the hill, the course loops past the finish to an out and back and, for the last kilometre, I ignored my watch and ran my heart out. As I crossed the finish, I stopped my watch and looked – a 2 minute PB. Not only did I love every step of it but I’d also managed to run it faster than before. Yes, I cried. It’s becoming something of a theme but they were such happy tears. I made my way to our meet up point in a smiley, happy cloud and floated on it for the rest of the day.

To City2Surf and all that ran her, a hearty thank you. Who knows how long it will stay but my ‘run happy’ is definitely back 😁

marathon training – week 3

Back to real life this week and familiar places to run. Along with the time and tiredness constraints that real life tends to bring.

Tuesday was another treadmill run – not only did I have further Glee episodes to keep me company, I also wanted to try out the indoor run function on my watch. Turns out it was fairly close to the distance the treadmill said (a little under but I can live with that) and gave me speed and heart rate data. It’s not going to make me a treadmill convert – I can tolerate it for short runs when I have to but it’s definitely harder.

Thursday was one of those days that, despite everything going against me, I ran anyway. It had been a massive day at work including a meeting at the end and my headache told me I had forgotten to include time with my water bottle in the day. But my training plan said run so I ran. It was a neighbourhood meander, complete with headlamp as the sun was going down and it included a lap of the wetlands in the dark. It was great.

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Saturday’s parkrun was a volunteering one as I was Run Director at You Yangs so I headed into town for a waterfront run to make up for it afterwards. Again, perfect run. I kept it ‘easy’ pace and just enjoyed it. So much so that I decided to try for my favourite sprint around the boardwalk at the end. This has been a consistent over the last few years – throwing a fast lap around it at the end of waterfront runs as a benchmark to measure how I’m tracking. And, on Saturday, I ran a PB. I only knocked 2 seconds off my time but that was a time that was set quite a while ago so it’s great to know that I’m getting back to where I was.

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Today’s long run was not perfect and it took a lot of effort to get out of the door. I woke up feeling like I might be succumbing to the germs my students have been sharing this week so I took a bit longer to get ready but ended up dressed, out the door and off to the Bellarine Rail Trail. I loved being outdoors and in the sunshine and was grateful for that, just had to suck it up and get through the running bits which weren’t great. I was thankful that the required pace on my training plan was super easy.

It’s been an interesting week of fabulous running and hard running and that’s why this blog is a handy record for me of both. It can be hard, when the ‘I don’t want to’ hits to remember the good runs so this is here to remind me. Bring on week 4 🙂

Weekly summary – 25.4km (3hr 48min):
Tuesday – 4.32km (40:05)
Thursday – 6.4km (55:49)
Saturday – 4.61km (40:01)
Sunday – 10.01km (1:32:41)