Dopey training – week 16

First week back of term is not really the ideal week for training to go up to another level but it is what it is and there’s not much I can do about it. So I just got on with what the training plan told me. Be ready for a long post – it was a loooooong training week.

On Tuesday, I set my alarm for 5.45am, got up and ran around my neighbourhood. I am not at all an early morning runner, as much as I’d like to be. The thing that got me up was knowing husband and I had movie tickets that night that would give me no chance to run after work so it was early or not at all. So early it was. I’m pleased to say I actually enjoyed it. Now that it’s getting light earlier, I didn’t need my head torch and was treated to the soft, welcoming colours of dawn as the neighbourhood woke up. And I got to bask in that ‘I’ve already done my run’ kind of feeling all day. Tick.

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Tuesday night, husband and I did go to the movies but not ordinary movies – it was the Run Nation Film Festival in Melbourne and we had won tickets thanks to a parkrun competition. I think it deserves a blog post of its own but, in summary, it was brilliant. The films chosen were a perfect mix and provided exactly the inspiration I needed this week.

Thursday afternoon ended up being a hill day as my friend and I headed out to the You Yangs for our regular trek up the Saddle. I’d been getting a bit paranoid about my leg which had been doing what it does – flare up for no reason when I have an event coming up. However it was perfectly ok after the hills so which reassured me that it was all in my head.

Saturday called for 11km which meant parkrun plus some extra. We were going to Bannockburn Bush parkrun launch so we went out early and ran the course (and a bit) before the others got there. It was actually really, really lovely. It’s a very peaceful place and the fog added to the atmosphere. We took it easy, aiming for a pace that would keep us a bit ahead of the balloon ladies and achieved this without a problem. Completing parkrun afterwards was also very low stress and I had no soreness at the end as we tucked into breakfast. I did take it easy for the rest of Saturday – not sore, just a bit tired and knew we had an early morning this morning.

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Today was our long run – 27km on the training plan which suited us as we’d signed up for the Melbourne half marathon. We arrived early, dropped off our bags and then set off on some laps around the MCG to add on some extra kilometres. I think the people arriving for their events thought we were possibly a little insane but it was actually quite enjoyable. We then joined everyone else at the start line and were off, leaving our Garmins running to track our longest long runs yet.

I ran with a friend for quite a while and really, really appreciated having her there – I am sure I wouldn’t have had as much ‘run’ in me without her. It’s funny how, even without pushing you or telling you you have to, having someone there makes you instantly more accountable. You don’t want to let them down. And so it was today which was exactly what I needed.

The first part of the run went off pretty well and the kilometres flew. It certainly helped that we were surrounded by people all buzzing with event excitement and had glorious blue skies. Albert Park lake, the site last year of wind and bugs, was stunning today and my regular check-ins with my body confirmed that nothing was hurting. The only thing that was starting to get to me was that I was tired but that’s to be expected – a big part of this training plan is learning to run on tired legs.

Once we were back on St Kilda Road and felt like we were on the home stretch, I found it harder to keep up the intervals and set my friend free – time to knuckle down and just get on with our own journeys. My mantra today was ‘This is hard, yes but not impossible’ and that was enough to keep me going.

Clearly the fatigue and endorphins combined to leave me prone to random tearing up – cheers on the course from a parent of one of my students (who was running the marathon) made me teary as did hearing the cheers in the final stretch. I took a big gulp and entered the MCG. Last year, I remember finding I had to dig deep to keep running as I had run a PB and had nothing left. This year was very different – I was certainly tired but my legs and lungs were still well and truly strong enough to get me there.

However crossing the line wasn’t enough – I still had another 1.5km to go to reach my training plan distance so I got my medal, headed up the steps and found another friend who kindly offered to collect and carry my bag and do a couple of laps of the MCG with me to finish. 27km – done.

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48.7km run this week – my biggest training week ever. Will see how I am tomorrow but, for tonight, I feel great.

Weekly summary:

Tuesday: 5.6km (47:12)

Thursday: 5km (51:30)

Saturday: 11.1km (1:46:15)

Sunday: 27km (4:08:56)

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parkrun tourism @ Bannockburn Bush

It appears that parkrun launch season is upon us again – last week was Portarlington’s turn and this week it was inland at Bannockburn Bush.

The team at this parkrun have been working hard for many months to set it all up, secure the funding and build a base of enthusiastic volunteers and participants. And all of that hard work paid off with a successful and busy launch this morning.

We arrived ridiculously early as our training plan called for a 6km pre-parkrun run so it was a sleepy, quiet and foggy scene that greeted us as we made our way down the gravel road to the reserve. It gave us a chance to enjoy the (chilly) morning and explore the course before the crowds arrived. By the time we were done, there were a lot more cars and people and we had time for a quick catch up with fellow local and travelling parkrunners before the briefing.

 

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The course at Bannockburn Bush is, as the name suggests, through the trees and along a delightful trail surface. Even more blissfully, it’s flat. It’s a wide enough trail for everyone and, even with the many people attending this morning’s launch, it still wasn’t too crowded, especially after the first 500 metres. It is a very easy to follow course – you head out straight then make a left for a short out and back segment before rejoining the main track where you head towards the main turn around point. From there, it’s straight back to the finish. And, if in doubt, there are a fabulous permanent sign posts along the way, ensuring you can’t get lost. Unless you try really, really hard.

It was great to see a big diversity in the parkrunners attending today with what felt like more than the usual proportion of walkers, adding further to the supportive and family friendly atmosphere.

Congratulations to the event team on a very successful launch. For those of you planning to tourist out this way, do. And be sure to visit Bannockburn Station for breakfast afterwards – absolutely delicious!

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parkrun tourism @ portarlington

International parkrun day, celebrating 13 years since the start of this amazing movement, is a really cool day to have a launch. And so we all gathered this morning at Portarlington, wearing our parkrun apricot ‘uniform’ to a launch another event into the parkrun family. The skies were blue, the clouds minimal, the sun shining and the waves gently lapping not far from the start line. Glenn, parkrun Ambassador (formerly known as Territory Director) welcomed us, followed by Event Director, Fiona and, in what felt like record time for a launch, we were at the start line and off.

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The view from our car park before walking up to the start

The course is a very easy to follow out and back, following the coastal path after starting at the big tree at the top of the hill. As such, it’s a nice downhill run to start (although the astute amongst you will have registered what that means. What goes down and all that…). The path is gravel and very easy to run on with enough width to cope with us all plus the benefit of grass alongside in case of those pesky runners that insist on running side by side (ie, me and my friends this morning). The trail can only be described as picturesque with views of the bay throughout, often close enough that you could almost touch the water. There are some undulations, probably more than you thought, but they’re not terrible or long and, before you know it, you’re turning around and heading home.

I ran today with my 3 running besties and it was just the best sort of run – not too hard but hard enough that it felt like I’d worked for it. Yet easy enough for chats as we went. It was another morning when, particularly reflecting on its 13th birthday, I felt very grateful that parkrun existed and that I had found it. I’ve said it before but it seriously is life changing stuff.

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Just at about the time when I was feeling like I might have had enough and be ready for breakfast, the finish line could be seen although its placement was a minor cause for concern. Naturally, it’s at the top of the hill we came down at the start. Not a big hill but still a hill which is not the most welcome sight at the end of a 5km run. Still, we ran it and crossed the line, happy and done.

A huge well done to Fiona and the event team at Portarlington – this one has been a long time in the making and it was great to see so many from Balyang welcoming them to the parkrun family. A gorgeous course, friendly crowd of volunteers and definitely one I’ll be back to. Even with that little incline at the end 😉

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Dopey training – week 14

After last week’s non-training, I was well rested but a bit nervous going into this week however was also keen to get back into it. So much so, that I headed out for my first run on Monday, making the most of school holidays and the good bout of weather. I ran along the waterfront and, even though it was a bit hard, it was an enjoyable run and I was really pleased to be back on track.

Having already run, I didn’t need to do a Tuesday run but headed to the first night of ‘Run Club’ instead which was actually more enjoyable than I thought, particularly because my friends were there. I’ve been thinking I should do some strength work for a while so this was a chance to try that out. I feel like the soreness I had over the next few days was a sign that those were muscles I clearly needed to work on!

Thursday’s run was with a friend out at the You Yangs – another gorgeous day and a perfect run, not measured in speed but in smiles. We did our favourite 5km circuit up the Saddleback and even managed to spot some goats up on the hills. Perfect.

Saturday was parkrun plus and hubby and I travelled to visit family in Bendigo, playing parkrun tourists at the same time. I took it easy but still managed to beat my previous time on the course by a couple of minutes. Bendigo parkrun is a pretty 2 lap-ish course around Kennington Reservoir with a couple of unexpected inclines to keep it interesting. We then set off for another 4km walk around the neighbourhood to make up the distance.

Today’s long run had been playing on my mind all week – my longest run to date at 24km. I was happy to not be doing it around home as I needed somewhere unfamiliar so I’d found a rail trail starting in Bendigo. Flat, appropriately long and completely unknown territory for me. Husband dropped me off at Lake Weeroona this morning and it was time to begin.

The O’Keefe rail trail runs from Bendigo to Heathcote however I would be running as far as Axedale today. Once I’d left Lake Weeroona and headed north, it was very easy to find the turn off and the signage after that was perfect – no chance of getting lost. The entry to the trail is quite quirky – you run under the brick railway bridge before emerging onto the trail which is bordered by industrial parts of town. Before long, you’re heading out into farmland and then on to a nature reserve. The trail was gravel so nice and soft on the soles of my feet. I had expected to see quite a few people out enjoying the trail as it was a gorgeous day but there were only a few cyclists and walkers.

As usual, it was a constant mental struggle on this one. It’s very hard to distract yourself early on from the length of time you’ll be out there and, as much as I tried, the total distance kept haunting me. In fact, my mind gave in to tiredness long before my body did and I walked a fair bit from 15km, albeit a very fast walk. ‘As long as I keep ahead of the balloon ladies’ was my mantra and I certainly did that. I had no bodily aches and pains and my nutrition and hydration were spot on. My only real problem today was a blister under one of my toes which started for no apparent reason at about halfway.

Another week done and I’m really pleased to have this long run behind me – it certainly loomed as an obstacle to get over. The next long run will be mostly covered by Melbourne half marathon in 2 weeks time so isn’t as daunting, despite requiring 27km. And, while the thought of running a marathon still feels impossible at the moment, I’m pleased to note that I’ve covered 2 of the event distances this weekend, back to back so at least the early part of the challenge is looking doable. Shall just have to trust the training will get me through the rest of it.

Weekly summary

Monday: 5.3km (45:40)

Tuesday: 30 minute run club

Thursday: 5km (52:37)

Saturday: 9.3km (1:22:17)

Sunday: 24.1km (3:42:28)

Not letting fear get in the way of the good things

I pushed myself well out of my comfort zone yesterday by trying something new. Something I had previously said I’d ‘never do’. I went to a group fitness session. I know – radical, right? It was always something I assumed just wouldn’t be the right fit for me. I find personal trainers intimidating and the the thought of having to exercise with the potential for others to watch me? Blah!

So why did I go along? Just in case. Just in case I actually liked it. Just in case it actually helped improve my running. Just in case it helped reduce my risk of injury. And I’m pleased to say, I actually did enjoy it. I’m not a convert and won’t be switching from running any time soon but the half an hour went pretty quickly and I mostly smiled – can’t ask for more than that.

It did make me remember though all of the barriers I put up before my first parkrun so that’s what I wanted to share. In doing so, I hope that someone reading it might realise their thoughts aren’t unique, their worries are shared and the worst things you imagine are very, very unlikely to happen.

  • It looks complicated – what do I do with my barcode? And the map looks confusing – what if I get lost?
    It’s actually very, very simple. Register once on the website, print that barcode and take it with you to your local parkrun (which you’ll also find details of on the website). If you’re nervous when you arrive, introduce yourself to the Run Director or one of the volunteers and tell them that – they’re very friendly and will happily answer any questions you have. Listen to the briefing – it will tell you all the important things you need to know about the course. Follow everyone over to the start line and go when the crowd does! Most of the courses are really easy to follow and those that are a little more complicated have signs, chalk drawings on the path or marshals to help you get around. And, unless you plan on being the first finisher, there’ll be lots of other bodies to follow. When you’re done and you’ve crossed the finish line, you’ll be given a finish token. Take it and your personal barcode up to the scanner who’ll scan both and take the finish token from you. And that’s it! Sit around on the couch feeling smug and wait for an email from parkrun with your results 🙂
  • I don’t have the right gear to wear.
    Wrong. You have clothes, yes? They will do. For your first parkrun, you don’t need any particular clothes or shoes or accessories. Yes, I’ve certainly seen people wearing all manner of sports gear but I’ve also seen people complete it in shorts and a t-shirt. Whatever is comfortable and you can move in.
  • Everyone will look at me.
    Probably. They will need to to welcome you properly, at least to begin with. And then, after it all starts and people are exerting themselves, you’ll get the odd ‘Go!’ or ‘Well done!’ but, other than that, people will be far too worried about breathing, not tripping over and moving forward that they will not have time to look at you.
  • I’m shy.
    While a big part of parkrun for lots of us is the social stuff, it’s not compulsory and you get out of it what you want. I remember being so nervous turning up to my first parkrun, particularly as I’m not a social butterfly but I needn’t have worried – people were so welcoming and friendly but there was also no pressure. There were some groups chatting and there were lots of parkrunners standing around stretching or chilling, waiting for the briefing and start. And all of that was perfectly ok.
  • I’ll be the slowest one there.
    Wrong. Every parkrun event has a tailwalker whose job it is to be ‘the slowest one there’. They are also quite skilled at offering regular encouragement and making sure you don’t get lost or left out on the track.
  • I’m not really ‘a runner’. Can I walk?
    Sure. Walk, run, womble or a combination of all 3. You can’t bring your scooter or bike but, other than that, you finish that 5km however you like. I suggest cartwheels are possibly not very efficient and may get you some funny looks. And, fyi, if you run any part of it, you are a runner. Really.
  • What if I can’t finish the 5km?
    Then don’t. Do what you can. The fact that you’ve turned up, listened to the briefing and crossed the start line makes you automatically awesome and there will be no judgement. There is no pressure to finish in a set time so try slowing down. And remember that your brain is ‘done’ a lot sooner than your body is so do a quick ‘body check’ to see if you’re feeling ok and actually can keep going.
    If you’re worried about the distance, check out your local parkrun course on the website – they’re either out and back or laps so you could always set yourself a shorter target to get you started. And keep picturing how amazing you’ll feel on that day in the future when you do cross the line and have your token scanned after doing your first 5km.
  • I’m worried that once I start, I might not be able to stop.
    Um, yes. This one’s true. It is addictive. Luckily, that’s not a bad thing.

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parkrun tourism @ newport lakes

When I think of Newport, Harry Potter-ish thoughts come to mind. Before you click ‘close’ and assume I’ve gone slightly bonkers, hear me out. We caught a steam train from Newport station once and it fulfilled many childhood wishes. I still vividly remember the train going through Southern Cross station, tooting its horn and feeling like I was on a magical mode of transportation that the muggles on the platform couldn’t quite see, only hear. So Newport will forever be a place linked in my mind to positive, if slightly eccentric, memories.

We weren’t able to make the launch of Newport Lakes parkrun as it was Balyang Sanctuary’s birthday so managed to get along today to event #3. This was probably a wise move. While there is definitely something about launches, there’s something different but equally as rewarding in turning up at an event unexpectedly and checking them out ‘in their street clothes’. Every parkrun has its own feel and quirks, even though the format and rules are all the same. The first thing Newport Lakes has going for it is a dose of the unexpected – I have driven through the area on my way to a friend’s house a few times but would never have known that this gem of a park was tucked away down a short road amidst all this suburbia. When I think ‘lake’ in relation to a Melbourne suburb, I assume it’s man-made and probably has a fountain and boardwalks. But no, this one has a lake that’s real and a trail that actually feels like a trail.

The first timers’ briefing gave us an overview of the course (which sounded confusing but signposted) and it was wonderful to see so many first timers. The main briefing then gave further delights – the Hobsons Bay running group had come along and were putting on a complimentary BBQ breakfast afterwards. I love this. I love that none of this needs to be a competition, that existing events and running groups can all work together to achieve the common goal – to get more people moving. But I digress.

After gathering at the start line, we were soon off. The start is across the grass, following the cones then looping back around near where you’ve come from. We followed the outside edge of the park for quite a while before following a bit of a long zig zag through the trails and closer to the water. The signposts were great and plentiful however I still had a few moments of doubt as there was no one around me and I wondered if that was because I went the wrong way. I trusted the arrows and kept going, finding some people further along the path. The surface is gravel track with some rocks and tree roots thrown in for good measure and I was glad I’d worn my trail shoes as they just gave me a bit more grip going up and down the inclines. There aren’t any terrible hills, just a few short ups and downs but lots of turning and loops so I really didn’t know where I was at any point. Running back along the road, I was completely disorientated until I turned back onto the grass and over the finish line.

Run done, we joined in the BBQ breakfast and chatted before heading off in search of a trendy venue for coffee and second breakfast. We found Leroy’s which perfectly fit the bill. Mmmmmm.

Well done to the event team at Newport Lakes – definitely a course I’d like to go back to although I’m equally sure I won’t be attempting a freedom run on it. I was fairly sure that, if I wasn’t completely attentive, I could get lost even with signs. Without them, I may be in the unfortunate position of needing to call for help in finding my way out of a suburban park!!

parkrun tourism @ brimbank

I’ve been to many parkrun launches. They all have something a bit special about them – like a victory lap for the event team who have put in often months of work to get it off the ground. They are full of smiling faces, expectant faces and, sometimes, slightly nervous faces wanting it all to go well. It’s always interesting guessing how many people might turn up. Those attending are usually an excited bunch – local first timers mingle with a large crowd of parkrun tourists who love nothing more than gathering at a launch and catching up. This morning it was Brimbank’s turn…with a slightly different flavour.

Brimbank parkrun is not so much a ‘slow burner’ of an event as a ‘firecracker’. While most parkruns gently brew on a back burner for a long time, this one seems to have had a much shorter gestation period, thanks in part to the generosity of Medibank’s sponsorship through their free + active initiative. It is the first of quite a few launches that have been greatly financially assisted by this. And, with the donation of what I assume to be a large amount of dollars, a reciprocal amount of advertising will necessarily follow so you could have been mistaken when turning up to this morning’s event in thinking that it was a Medibank event first, parkrun second. There were red flags everywhere, large marquees and lots of Medibank attired staff/volunteers (not sure which?) on hand to direct and manage it all. There was even a bag drop area and, believe it or not, a tv crew on hand. So it was rather unlike any parkrun launch I’ve ever attended before.

Proceedings kicked off with speeches and a run briefing with introduction to the fabulous parkrun volunteers then a warmup by Michelle Bridges. It is at this point that I want it to be noted that I was far more excited to see the now famous parkrunner Jess here than Michelle Bridges and regret not going over to say hi :). Warm up over, we headed for the wide open space of the start line. We were held there for a while and weren’t quite sure why as we’d ticked over 8am by this stage – no one minded as launches often run a bit late due to speeches and celebrations. However the delay today was apparently to do with the tv crew and their broadcast schedule – again, not something experienced elsewhere.

Soon enough, we were off and running. And, despite all of the strangeness and un-parkrun like feel of the preamble, once we were on the course, it felt like parkrun again. And it was beautiful. Brimbank park really is a hidden gem. I’ve driven past it so many times and never thought that this trailrunning gold lay tucked in between houses and the freeway. On course this morning, we traversed river crossings (without getting wet feet) and were treated to as much trail goodness as we could handle. There were undulations, a range of surfaces (all gentle) and then an impressive hill which, when you reached the top, showed you just how magical this place is – popped in amongst suburbia. The surrounding bush is gorgeous and the course wends its way through it all in a meandering fashion. In the second half, there is a loop which is great for greeting other parkrunners coming the other way and then, before you know it, you’re passing the cafe and turning into the well organised finish shute. Where we were given a water bottle (thoughtfully, already full of water – thanks).

Following today’s event, there were post-run drinks and nibbles, massages and free health checks, all provided by Medibank. I was appreciative particularly of the large marquees they’d put up as the rain had decided now was as good a time as any to show up. We sheltered, enjoyed the hospitality and chatted to the crowd. And picked up a free running singlet. Which doesn’t fit as, in a fairly standard yet annoying assumption often made by health promoting corporations, only people up to size 16 would possibly turn up at an event like this and like to enjoy a free singlet. (At this point, when I’m clearly having a small rant, I could also go off on a tangent and talk about how I feel the commercialisation of parkrun has affected things but I haven’t fully decided how I feel about it and I should stick to the topic at hand. Let’s assume it might be the topic of a future blog post and leave it at that.)

A huge well done to the event team at Brimbank parkrun – what a beautiful location with so much going for it. While it seemed like a friendly and welcoming event, it was really hard to get a feel for the local parkrun community this morning as it was an ‘event’ rather than a community. What I look forward to most is coming back to visit without all the pomp and ceremony to fully appreciate this parkrun’s spirit as I certainly loved the course.