parkrun tourism @ westerfolds

In my quest to complete all Victorian parkruns, I will admit that I have been cherry picking. And Westerfolds was not near the top of my list. Before the Westerfoldians attack me, let me explain. I had heard wonderful things about the scenery (gorgeous and full of trees and wildlife) and the people (friendly and welcoming) but I’d also heard about another aspect of the Westerfolds course which made me a little nervous – the hills. I hadn’t given them too much thought until I stumbled into discussions with people after completing Wilson Botanic course about which was harder – Wilson Botanic or Westerfolds. From then, it moved a little further down the list.

Deciding to embrace hills may not be the best strategy as I get back to form after time off with a calf tear but no one has ever accused me of being sensible when it comes to running. And so it was that hubby and I headed off to Westerfolds this morning to see exactly how bad this hill was.20170325_075202.jpg

We knew we were in the right spot not only due to the parkrun flags but due to the sunglass-requiring fluorescent wear sported by the Westerfoldians – definitely a bunch who like to stand out. Run Director Rachel gave a fabulous briefing – full of all the necessary bits but delivered in a fun way which seems to sum up the spirit of this popular parkun. Milestones were celebrated, visitors and first timers welcomed and then it was time to begin.

I found the first kilometre really hard and was racking my brain to figure out why. Tired? Possibly. Dehydrated? Most likely. Or just that I was actually running faster than I had for quite some time? Definitely! With the mystery solved, I settled into it and felt pretty good. Calf was behaving itself and the ‘undulations’ were not at all terrible. Yet.

The scenery is certainly gorgeous and I was lucky enough to spot a couple of kangaroos bounding away from the mad runners, off into the bush. The path is wide enough that I didn’t encounter any bottlenecks and there was plenty of room to move around people where needed.

Another really pleasing thing to see is the number of parents and children at this parkrun, adding to the friendly, non-competitive and inclusive vibe. There was a little boy ahead of me in his parkrun 50 shirt and it made me smile the whole way around, thinking what a great thing it was that his parents had done for him, encouraging his involvement in this at such a young age.

However all these pleasant thoughts and slightly manic smiles at the scenery didn’t last as the hill I had clearly not been looking forward to revealed itself. The fact that it doesn’t reveal itself at once but just keeps stretching and stretching tells you what sort of hill it is – not huge and not that steep but long enough to give you a good kicking. I put my head down and power walked up it.

The positive is that the downhill run towards the finish was much needed as I put my legs into automatic and cruised down the hill at a lovely pace. One final push up another incline and I crossed the finish, quite pleased to have made it under 40 minutes – slowly getting back some speed and not completely wrecked on a hilly course. I clearly was still feeling ok as I headed off to do a 2km cool down on some of the trails in the park – a great place to explore and one I’ll be coming back to.

So is it harder than Wilson Botanic? Hmmmm, not sure on that one. I feel like it’s a much smaller hill which goes on for longer. However the sting in the Wilson Botanic hill is not only that it’s very sharp but that you know it’s a 2 lap course so you’re going to have to do it all over again. Based on that, I think I’m giving the title to Wilson Botanic….for the moment. It is also entirely possible that I’m a bit fitter than I was when I ran that one – perhaps it’s time to go back and do it again?!

Stepping up – my first shot at being a run director

From first registering, it took me about 6 months to attend my first parkrun. Little did I know then that it would become such an important part of my weekend and my life. Today I reached another milestone – I volunteered as run director at my local parkrun for the first time. And survived 🙂

I will admit to being nervous in the lead up to the event. Like anything that matters to us, I imagined all sorts of things going wrong and not knowing how to fix them. I prepared myself as much as I could and had great pre-event support and training from our Event director, Rachel.

I also had a wave of support from my fabulous running friends who headed out to You Yangs this morning. As much as I said beforehand that they were welcome not to come and see me mess up, I was definitely grateful for their friendly faces and never judgemental, unwavering support. Even during my initial run briefing wobble (where I very nearly welcomed people to the wrong parkrun – ooops!), they were standing by me and cheering me on. Most importantly, as always, they believe in me. Sometimes a lot more than I believe in myself and for that I am truly grateful. It’s very powerful to have people tell you that you can do something and actually mean it. It’s hard for the voice in your head telling you that you can’t to argue against louder external voices telling you that you can.

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This morning, voices or no voices, I did it. It all went smoothly pre and post event – a successful run or walk followed by a tasty breakfast and an uneventful processing of the results. As with so many things, the imagining of the event was much worse than just jumping in and getting it done – I enjoyed the experience and love being able to give back to an organisation that has given so much to me.

So, to my beautiful and caring running friends who either joined me in person today or sent positive thoughts and vibes my way, thank you. For being there this morning and for generally being the sort of people that are a pleasure to be around. The sort of people that make life a whole lot sunnier.

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parkrun tourism @ newborough

Part II in the tale of 2 parkrun launches. Apologies for the delay – life has a funny knack of getting in the way of running, annoyingly! Our second launch in a row was at Newborough, near Moe. While this isn’t a million miles away from Melbourne, it is a bit further for us and required us getting up at a time that started with a 4. Ouch. I took a pillow in the car, just in case I felt the need for snoozing along the way.

We arrived to a crisp, sunny morning – perfect running weather, as it always tends to be for our parkrun adventures. With me on this jaunt were Jo and Gary – a smaller cast than the week before but we met up again with lots of the parkrun adventuring regulars and happily chatted as we waited. The venue ticked all the boxes – clean toilets and ample parking. Tick and tick.

The launch was clearly quite popular and not just with tourists – there were a lot of locals and first timers there which was great to see. What was slightly disappointing was the number of people who seemed oblivious to the fact that the Run Director was trying to deliver a briefing and who continued their conversations regardless. Kudos to him for managing it professionally and courteously (I’m afraid I would possibly have resorted to getting out my teacher voice). He also ended with a fabulous reminder – the event team had a whole array of things to remember while we were all asked to bring only one thing (our barcode). Exactly.

So, run briefing done, it was time to go. The start follows the path and curves over the bridge before heading up a short incline to climb up onto the rail trail where it’s straight and flat(ish – there’s actually a slight incline to it but I didn’t notice until I checked Strava later). We ran along this to the turnaround point then back again to the second turnaround point (near where we joined the trail) then went and did that bit all over again. It certainly made for a friendly event – lots of passing, smiling, waving and the odd high-five although these had to be carefully orchestrated due to the 4 lanes of foot traffic as the various parkrunners and walkers moved at their differing speeds.

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The turnaround point. The first one.

The beauty of the out-back-out again-back again part was that it made the time go fairly quickly and I was soon enough heading back to the finish. My calf had not held up particularly well – while the trail was flat, it was quite rocky and my unsteady footing had just aggravated my already tender leg. There is also the distinct possibility that I pushed it a bit too hard so early in my recovery. So the finish line was a ‘grit my teeth and get it done’ kind of situation.

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Overall, another great parkrun and worth the long drive to help welcome another event to the Gippsland group. I’m constantly heartened by the way communities pull together to start these events and know only positive things can come out of the relationships built each week. Welcome to the parkrun family, Newborough 🙂

 

parkrun tourism @ darebin

What do they say about parkrun launches? Not one for ages then 2 come along at once! (Yes, I know. That’s really about buses but whatever!). I’m a bit behind in my blogging so stay tuned for launch #2.

However, back to launch #1….last week, we headed to Darebin for their parkrun launch – about an hour’s drive from home so not too far. Making it even better was the fact that a whole bunch of us had decided to do the tourist thing so I it felt like a home parkrun even though it wasn’t.

We arrived in time to get a car park in the main car park (although it was a bit touch and go!), queue up for the toilet and still have time for a chat before briefing. In fact the briefing was also very efficient as, even allowing time for the welcome to country, greeting by the Territory Director and briefing by our Run Director, we still had breathing time before the start time. Tick. This is another run supported by the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service so it was particularly pleasing to see so many parkrunners attend.

The Darebin course is an out and back course along the Darebin Creek Trail. It has some undulations although nothing terrible and the scenery is pretty – another hidden treasure amidst suburbia. For this event, I had plenty of time to experience it – I was walking, having injured myself a couple of weeks ago. I was lucky enough to have a couple of friends who were also walking so the time felt like it moved very quickly as we chatted our way along the course.

The crowd of parkrunners were very encouraging and supportive with cheers and smiles all the way along from runners and walkers. It was also great to see such a diverse range of participants – I love how launches bring out speedy runners, beginning runners, Saturday strollers and everyone in between.

Overall, another great parkrun kicked off with a very successful launch with 252 parkunners. Well done to the event team for both a smooth delivery on the day and for the months of work behind the scenes to pull it all together.

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Lucky to be able to walk the scenic course with these 2 fabulous friends

Dopey challenge – here we come!

My alarm went off at 3.45am on Wednesday morning and I actually bounded out of bed. This day had felt like a loooooong time coming; something I’d been thinking about for over a year. I opened up my computer and headed to the Run Disney site……to register for the Dopey challenge (insert freaked out emoticon here!).

To say I felt nervous is a large understatement – my butterflies rivalled those I’ve had at the starting line of major events. It’s a just another event, surely. Why the nerves? There are so many reasons, many of them not particularly rational. We’ve booked in nearly a year ahead so that’s a long time for things to go wrong. I’m not actually running at the moment because I’m injured. The furthest I’ve run is 23km, yet I’ve signed up to nearly 4 times that over 4 days. I haven’t booked the airfares or actually figured out how I will pay for them. But, in the end, these felt like minor details. This event has been on my bucket list since I started running and, if not now, when?

So, it’s done. I was so ridiculously excited that I couldn’t stop thinking about it all day and must have annoyed my workmates with my constant chatter about it. I have a long journey ahead but an exciting one. Bring it on 🙂

Everything to live for by Turia Pitt- book review

As you may have read in my last blog post, I’m injured. For the record, that actually got worse today as I, without thinking, went to run up some steps to catch a train. The fact I actually heard something tear in my leg might tell you that it wasn’t a good outcome. I stood shocked for a little while before gathering myself enough to hobble to the train. Bleurgh. I’d already planned to take a couple of weeks off, now I’m doing at least that on doctor’s orders.

The ‘wallowing in self pity’ thing was threatening to take over as it had already been brewing since Saturday. So I searched for a remedy – one that would help me balance and remember that this really is just a little injury and not the end of the world. Hence why I found myself re-reading ‘Everything to live for‘ by Turia Pitt.

For those not familiar with her story, Turia (along with several other runners) were injured during an Ultramarathon in the Kimberley in Western Australia in 2011. ‘Injured’ really is a completely inadequate word – Turia received burns to 65% of her body, resulting in four fingers and a thumb requiring amputation, extensive skin grafts and ongoing operations.

The book opens with an introduction to Turia’s life and leads you up to the event. The account of the event itself is nothing short of horrific. It’s the second time I’ve read this book and I still cried – that they lived through what they did is simply incredible. The remainder of the book is dedicated to her long and painful road to recovery, surrounded and supported by her wonderful family and friends. I found myself willing her on, joining in as her personal cheer squad. For someone to have been through so much but to continue to aim high and push towards her goals is beyond inspiring.

If there is one book capable of making you grateful for what you have and aware of how cruel, painful and torturous life can be, this is it. What stands out above all of that is Turia’s spirit – never broken. She is one of my heroes – someone whose tenacity, perseverance and sense of gratitude I have often drawn on during long runs. Now I’m drawing on it when I can’t run. What Turia has been through is unimaginable and yet she’s come out the other side and conquered things I only dream of. She’s an ironwoman! In comparison, my ickle calf tear really is just a blip and not worthy of the theatrics I wanted to give. So, yet again, I’m in her debt for providing me with a sense of perspective.

If you haven’t read this book, you must. Probably with a box of tissues. Just don’t expect to come out of it the same as you went in. (And I’m really, really looking forward to her next book.)

meh

Today should be my long run day. My brain clearly knew it as I was awake at 6am and feeling enthusiastic and eager. My body, unfortunately, has other ideas.

From the first few steps at parkrun yesterday, I knew that my calf was still not quite right, despite a great morning run on Thursday without pain. By 1km into parkrun, I was walking and not happy. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve contemplated not finishing a parkrun – yesterday was one of them. I did finish it and managed to walk pretty quickly (45 minutes with 4km of walking isn’t bad) but really had to work on not feeling miserable the whole time.

So I’m not doing a long run today. And have decided to take 2 weeks off running. Even typing that hurts. What will I do if I don’t run? Early apologies to my husband and cats for my moods that will inevitably result. The only consolation is that at least this is now and not when I’m halfway through my marathon training plan. My next event isn’t until early April so this really is a blip and not a major setback.

Here’s to fast healing and a quick return to running!