Dopey training – week 3

Training this week has again been pretty easy with school holidays providing ample time to get my kilometres done. And, with more time and less stress, I’ve slotted in a few different places for runs which always help keep it interesting.

I started with a short run around the Geelong waterfront which felt a bit slow but, according to Strava, was about right. I had managed to time it perfectly so I was treated to a beautiful sunset which made it all a lot better.

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As I had time on my hands, I decided to switch my long run around and do it on Thursday instead of the weekend. I opted for one of my favourite long run routes – a 17km loop around Melbourne. I’ve done the route a couple of times before but it was a little bit strange running during a weekday with suited people going about their daily chores while I got hot and sweaty out on the street. It was a pretty good run and I managed to keep to my 2 minute run/1 minute walk intervals up until about 13km when my feet were starting to get sore so I switched to run when I felt like it, walk when I didn’t. By 15km, I pretty much was walking – anything to get it finished, despite my now ridiculously achy feet. I made it back to the car having completed 17.7km – my longest long run on my own so I was proud of that. And my overall pace was exactly the same as my long run before Melbourne half marathon last year so that’s pretty good too.

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For my final short run for the week, I headed to my favourite surf coast trail today so soak up the views and pretend it’s not the last day of holidays. The next 2 weeks are quieter as I’m tapering for the Run Melbourne half – probably a good thing as Term 3 will no doubt hit like a freight train!

Weekly summary:

Tuesday: 5.5km (45 minutes)
Thursday: 17.7km (2 hours 36 minutes)
Sunday: 5.5km (45 minutes)

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What are you running for?

I was listening to a running podcast the other day and was encouraged to contemplate why I run. It’s actually quite a big and profound question and not easily answered. At least not in a single part – I have many reasons and some are more important than others on a given run. So here are my current reasons…

  • Indigenous marathon project
    This one is a big reason for me right now. I have chosen to raise funds for this amazing project through my running of the Disney Dopey challenge and I couldn’t be prouder to support them. The historical and contemporary treatment of Aboriginals in our country is nothing to be proud of and programs like this go a long way to changing that. This program supports indigenous people from all over Australia to get into running and, ultimately, to aim for the New York marathon, all the while earning qualifications in health and fitness and inspiring their families and communities. As a teacher, I know how much of a role model I am for my students, intentionally or not so I love that this project empowers young people to be the most positive role models they can be. I could go on and on about the benefits but I won’t. Check out their website and please, please – if you can spare a small amount to donate to my fundraising efforts, I’d be so grateful.
  • My mental health
    The physical benefits of running are well known and pretty obvious but so much of why I run is for the mental benefits. Running allows me to retreat to a zen like space in my head where all that matters is my breathing, where my feet are landing and the environment around me. Other things will pop in and out of my head but nothing sticks other than my basic needs. Quite often, I come home with solutions to problems I wasn’t even able to articulate when I went out. And when my anxiety rears its ugly, insidious head, the endorphins from running reign it in. Few of my stormy moods last past the 4th kilometre of any run.
  • For the sense of accomplishment
    I wouldn’t say I’m an overachiever but I have always been someone who set high standards and pushed to achieve them. The goals I set and achieve through running bring me such a strong sense of accomplishment – maybe because they usually scare me to begin with? Even my regular training runs end with me feeling almost a little smug – I got it done despite all the reasons I could have conjured up not to. It’s not about beating anyone else, it’s about beating me. Conquering fears and resisting the voice in my head that says it can’t be done.
  • Feeling part of something
    This is a bit of an odd one and not one I anticipated when I started running. I’d had flirtations with running, on and off, for a few years but have now been running consistently for 3 years. And when I say consistently, I mean it – I’ve run 3 or 4 times a week, every week, for the last 3 years. A significant contributor to me sticking with it this time is the running community I’ve found. First online through the inspirational five30runners, then through parkrun in Geelong and then through the network of running friends I’ve built up, locally and far away. I’m not a huge fan of running with people but knowing they’re around, either on the trail, for coffee afterwards or virtually through a facebook group brings me a lot of happiness and comfort. Most of my running is alone but far from lonely and swapping running tales with this bunch is guaranteed to make me smile. I wouldn’t even have contemplated doing the Dopey challenge if it weren’t for them, believing in me and doing it together. So it might not have started out that way but feeling a part of this running tribe is now a very big reason why I run and why I’m sure I’d feel lost without it.

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I know there are more reasons but I’ll stop there so this doesn’t turn into an essay. Please note there is absolutely no ‘to get a better body’ type reasons anywhere in or near my list, nor will there ever be. I certainly run to be a better person but all of the benefits I care about are to my insides, not my outside.

Life at the back of the pack

If you’ve been running for long enough and in a big enough variety of events, you have possibly come last or near to last once or twice. Perhaps you were having an off day. Or an injury mid-event ruined your plans. Maybe you were running with someone else to support them and stuck to their pace. The experience will probably not have been the most positive for you. Now think about that being your reality in every event you do. Welcome to the back of the pack.

Life at the back of the pack is a very mixed bag. Sometimes it’s wonderful. The Great Ocean Road half marathon showed me that, hanging out with the most fun loving runners who were taking the event seriously but not themselves and who had time to slow down enough to enjoy the scenery and the experience. How many of those at the pointy end noticed the koalas in the trees or had the breath to say thank you to the farmer handing out jelly snakes?

However, it can also suck and it does so in a large way. Knowing that you’ve put in months of training and are pushing yourself as hard as you can nevertheless can feel woefully inadequate as you are constantly overtaken. Getting to an aid station to find they’ve run out of water/electrolyte/life giving red lollies can seriously knock your psyche. Starting a training run with a group and watching them quickly disappear off into the distance while you hang out alone with the tailrunner is demoralising. Every event or group run I contemplate has to have careful consideration given to whether I’m up for the inevitable issues and I spend a long time looking at prior results and calculating cut off times before I enter. Will I finish before they pack up? Will there be anyone else there at my pace? Will I end up out there alone on the course? Am I prepared for the assumptions (sometimes real and often imagined) – that I haven’t trained properly or that I’m a beginner runner or that I’m not trying hard enough?

I’m not in any way apologising for or embarrassed by my pace – I’m proud of what I’ve achieved and how far I’ve come. I’ve now run 7 half marathons and am close to my 100th parkrun – both milestones that bring me an immense amount of satisfaction and which I have only reached through hard work and consistency. I’m also learning to stop using the word ‘slow’ to describe my running although it’s a hard habit to break. Compared to the old me, I’m stronger, faster and far tougher than I thought I could be. No other comparisons are necessary, I know that. It’s a lot easier to remember that when I’m out on a run by myself and can be harder when surrounded by other runners. So I’ve still got some work to do.

I’m not sure that there is a grand message to this blog post – just wanted to put it out there. For those who are at the well resourced, stocked aid station end – spare a thought for the rest of us and know that a word of encouragement means a lot. I feel grateful to have runners of all speeds in my circle of running friends and appreciate the genuine cheers and congratulations from them during events.

I guess I also wrote this for those of you who haven’t entered an event, held back by fears of not fitting in, being laughed at or not completing what you’ve set out to do. Know that those are my fears too and I’m sure we’re not alone in harbouring them. Just don’t let them stop you from being the best version of you that you can be. The biggest barriers we have to overcome are those in our own minds and there are far worse things that can happen to you than coming last. Like not starting in the first place.

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Dopey training – week 2

I’m sure it will come as no surprise that week 2 of training has also involved a ‘modified’ plan. My 2 x 45 minute runs weren’t 45 minutes (one longer and one shorter) and my long run was longer than I needed. And I had a hike thrown in there for good measure. All of this is partly thanks to the flexibility of school holidays – I know it will get a lot harder to get the kilometres in once Term 3 hits. More than any other statistic, I’m proud to have managed 1035m of elevation this week…and my calves are feeling every metre of it.

Tuesday started with exploring a new running route close to home – there is only so many times I can run around my block without lapsing into a boredom coma. My new route is quite scenic and reminded me how lucky I am to live where I do – there really is more variety than I give it credit for and no reason to get bored.

We then headed away for a few days camping in the stunning Grampians National Park (Gariwerd) and enjoyed an amazing hike from Halls Gap to the Pinnacle. It’s not an easy hike at all but I was really pleased to find that it was nowhere near as strenuous as I remembered. I last did the whole thing as an unfit 14 year old and I think it had haunted me ever since. I couldn’t stop grinning as we powered up the hills, steps and rocks to reach the top. Coming down was more of a challenge with some horrid metal steps to navigate but I felt very grateful for the opportunity to be out in such a beautiful landscape.

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These steps were not fun, especially in trail shoes which kept getting caught in them.

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We made it to the Pinnacle!

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Silent Street – one of my favourite places in the Grampians

Parkrun on Saturday saw us adventure to Frog Hollow – a slow one as my calves were definitely still angry with me about the hike.

And, to end the week, I joined the Surf Coast Trail Runners on their introduction to the You Yangs. A bit funny really as it’s just up the road from me and is the home of the parkrun I am a Run Director at but it was a wonderful chance to find some new trails that I hadn’t explored before. I had been rather nervous in joining this run – scared of holding everyone up and I was very glad that I had 2 great running friends join me which helped make it a positive experience.

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Photo courtesy of Matt @ SCTR

Weekly summary:

Tuesday – 7.3km (59:58)
Wednesday – 10.5km (4:49:04) – hiking
Saturday – 5.0km (39:10)
Sunday – 11.6 (1:56:18)

parkrun tourism @ frog hollow

I’ve wanted to go to Frog Hollow parkrun for ages, mostly because of the name. It sounds so cute and conjures up images of Beatrix Potter inspired landscapes. Being in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, I knew that was unlikely but wanted to do it nevertheless.

So, in what is now becoming something of a ritual, husband and I got up at a time starting with a 5 and headed off on a bit over an hour drive for a run. It’s a very easy parkrun to find, just off the freeway. On arrival, we followed the request on this parkrun’s home page to not park in the reserve itself and walked the very short distance to the meeting point.

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Briefing and a visitors/first timers briefing to clue us up about the course done, we headed to the start area and, very soon, were off. It was a slower than normal start for me – a very hilly hike earlier in the week has left me with sore calves so they took a bit to get warmed up.

The course follows a concrete path out and along the side of a lake before heading under the freeway and up to a turn around point. After this, you head back towards the lake and complete a full lap around it before running back to the finish. And it is quite scenic, especially considering the freeway and backs of houses which surround the course. The lake was tranquil this morning with a few other walkers about but plenty of room for everyone.

Coming back around the lake, I had a few other parkrunners around as faster runners were heading back in while I was doing my lap and many of them shared friendly words of encouragement which were much needed. There was a great mix of faster runners and walkers this morning with all speeds in between – made for a great atmosphere and very welcoming.

This is definitely another hidden gem of a parkrun – a scenic course tucked away into suburbia with a friendly welcome for regulars and visitors. And another Victorian parkrun ticked off my list 🙂

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Dopey training – week 1

I blogged earlier this week that marathon training had started and I’ve decided to post updates of each week’s training. Mostly, I blog for me – a record of this incredible journey that I get to have and to remind me where I’ve been. However if others get something out of it, all the better.

I’m following Jeff Galloway’s training plan which has 2 weekday runs most week (Tues and Thurs) lasting 45 minutes plus varying length long runs on the weekends. As it’s week 1, the long run isn’t very long at all – 5km.

Even though it’s the first week, I’ve already had to vary the plan but I figure that any plan that can’t be varied isn’t the right plan for me and my life. I ran on Wednesday rather than Tuesday (as it fit in better with the chaos that is the last week of school term) then pushed Thursday’s run to Saturday morning (and cut it a little short). And my long run was much longer than Jeff intended – I ended up with 11km. This is mostly because I have Run Melbourne half marathon coming up in a few weeks and need to keep up the long runs to ensure I get the best out of myself for that event – it’s my last chance to get a better qualifying time for Dopey and I’ll be pushing it as it is.

So here’s the weekly statistics…

Wednesday – 5.5km (45 mins)
Saturday – 5.0km (36 mins)
Sunday – 11.2km (1hr 42 mins)

My long run should actually have been longer – I was aiming for 15km but my stomach still wasn’t happy today so I didn’t want to push too hard. I kept the pace very gentle – I’m learning to ensure my long runs are slower and finish with me feeling strong rather than ‘done’. I ran again on my favourite trail – even when I’m feeling less than average, the scenery is guaranteed to make me smile.

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parkrun tourism @ karkarook

First day of school holidays and what a better way to celebrate than get up early, pull on some warm clothes and head to the other side of Melbourne for a run! Karkarook was today’s destination, a smidge over an hour from home so not too far when I was feeling rather sleepy from a long term.

We arrived in plenty of time, made use of the ‘facilities’ and strolled on over to the meeting point. It was certainly rather fresh – the car had helpfully told us it was 1 degree and the frost everywhere you looked backed this up. However I had come prepared – long sleeves and gloves as it’s usually my fingers which are the worst on days like this.

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We were welcomed by the run director and introduced to the various pacers who would be encouraging and helping everyone out on the course today. Various milestones were also shared and visitors welcomed. And then we ditched our top layers and headed to the start line.

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I didn’t feel up for a PB – too cold, too ‘end of term’-ish but I hung around the 36:20 pacer anyway, just to see how long I could keep her in my sights. And off we went.

Before starting, I’d already decided I wasn’t running any set intervals – just running when I felt like it, walking when I didn’t. So I ran most of the first kilometre. Just fast enough to get warm and to keep up with my pacer. Surprisingly, it felt pretty easy and I looked at my watch to see exactly how easy. I was shocked to find it was actually fast (for me) and not the plod that it felt like. So I kept going.

Somewhere around the end of the 2nd kilometre, we approached a little bit of a downhill (on what is really a rather flat course) and I just felt like letting my legs go, so I did and overtook the pacer. I was fairly sure she’d be back past me before long and that was ok – it was all part of my ‘just run what you feel’ strategy. I felt good.

First lap done and, heading out on the second, the sun was starting to warm things up nicely and I still felt strong. My stomach did not feel quite as good, giving me all sorts of dodgy pains. Probably a result of me messing with my breakfast routine (note to self – no cereal with milk before a run). So I walked a bit. Ran when I could, walked and grimaced when I couldn’t. Mostly I was just annoyed – typical to be feeling strong and have something like that get in my way.

By the 4th kilometre, I was feeling a bit better so I kicked into gear and ran it in. I did walk a bit over the bridge before the finish (which was icy and I didn’t trust myself not to end up on my backside) then made it over the line in 36:09 – a 5km PB.

Obviously Karkarook will now be remembered as a PB spot but, aside from that, it is a great little course and fabulous parkrun community. They’re a friendly bunch and very welcoming and the course is unexpectedly pretty, tucked in amongst suburbia. It is a two-lap course around a lake and is pretty much flat and obviously quite fast. Add in the fact that it’s easy to get to and has ample parking and facilities – what more could you ask for?