Dopey training – Week 21

It’s all getting very close and very real now and I think that’s making the training a mentally much harder task. Not to mention the fact that Term 4 is the most draining of all school terms for teachers (ignore all comments about ‘Aren’t you winding down for the end of the year?’) with a constant and demanding ‘to do’ list. And, while I know neither of those are an excuse, they may go towards explaining my mood this week.

So I didn’t run on Tuesday. I can’t even remember why or whether there was a particular reason. I just didn’t. I know I was ridiculously tired and our side of the planet has heated up considerably this week so both were contributing factors. I set the alarm for Wednesday morning instead…..then turned it off and had a sleep in. ‘I can make it up’ I told myself and moved on.

On Thursday, I knew I really had to do it so went out after school, showing some resilience as it was raining when I left and built up to a drenching by the last 2 kms. I ran around the block, which I haven’t done for a while and enjoyed it. Even more shocking, I was quite speedy for the first time in ages and felt strong throughout my run. I guess that’s what the combination of long runs and rested legs do for you. I dripped my way back into the house (literally) with a smile on my face.

I was due to do my 2nd 45 minute run of the week on Saturday at parkrun and was intending to head to Melbourne for my friend’s 50th parkrun. I woke up feeling rather ill but pushed through it and got ready. Just before turning onto the freeway, feeling ill had grown into a panic attack so I turned around and headed home. For whatever reason, my body and brain had decided that it wasn’t a running day for me and had given me no choice but to listen. Would I have felt better if I had somehow made myself? Probably. Husband kindly came with me for a no pressure walk on the beach later in the afternoon to get me out of the house which helped me reset. I say it often but brains really are amazing things – who knows why they do the things they do? I can only assume, after an intense week (and with a wisdom tooth causing both pain and anxiety) that I couldn’t cope with any expectations or commitments and needed to give myself a rest day. So I did.

It clearly worked as I was back at it again this morning. I didn’t set an alarm but woke up at 5.30am feeling refreshed and ready to go. I drove out to the You Yangs and set off along a new trail for me. It turned out to be exactly the tonic I needed. There was a weird fog hanging around thanks to the humid weather which added to the atmosphere. I was alone in terms of humans but stopped counting at 20 kangaroos so definitely had animal company which made me smile. The track I followed went along the edge of the park for a few kilometres before heading through the middle and gave me a different perspective than I usually get. And, as usual, my mind wandered a lot. I was thinking about how easy this run was, not the individual minutes (which were suitably challenging) but the whole thing. There was a time not that long ago that going out for an 11km run was a major undertaking whereas this just involved getting up, eating a banana and heading out. Before I knew it, the 11km were done and I was back at the car. Tonic taken, stress levels reduced and another week of training done.

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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)

running because you need to

A while ago, I wrote on one of my social media updates that my soul had told me where to run that day. It was a little bit of a throw away line but, after writing it, I realised it really was true. My training plan tells me how far I have to run and my brain (with its ingrained need to follow rules) makes me follow that. My soul tells me where. Sometimes it needs to be close to other humans and is satisfied with my neighbourhood. Sometimes I need the familiarity of my home parkrun course where my brain is free to think of whatever it needs to because my feet know where to go. Sometimes I need to run beside the ocean. If I listen hard enough, I know where I need to run.

Yesterday I needed the You Yangs. Last week my friend, Vanessa, passed away at the age of 42 after a 4 month gutsy battle with cancer and yesterday I was travelling to her memorial service. I knew I had to fit in a run somewhere amongst that but really didn’t feel much like it when faced with an emotional day and a long drive. And then I thought about running out in the natural environment and knew that it was the right thing to do – a run Vanessa would have approved of and which I needed to make peace with exactly how unfair and awful it was.

Needless to say, it was an emotional 10km. I was glad to be out there on my own as anyone who came across me would have thought I’d lost my mind. I’d remember some funny story and start laughing maniacally. Or a song would come on from our college days and I’d start singing it at the top of my voice. Then the tears would flow and I’d have to manage the whole running while ugly crying thing. It was one of those runs.

I’m not generally a religious person but it’s hard not to feel the spirituality of running somewhere as beautiful as this. At one point, a kangaroo bounded across the track in front of me and I thought of Vanessa, how much she loved animals and nature and wondered if it was a sign. When the kangaroo stopped at the edge of the trail and just looked at me, completely still until I had run past, I knew it was. In whatever way, she was out there with me on the trail yesterday and I was grateful to have known her and to have been able to spend the time yesterday morning remembering and honouring who she was and what she brought to the world. I was grateful to have running as my medium to do that and that I’d listened to my soul when it told me where I needed to be.

So this one’s for you Vanessa. The world is a much better place for having had you in it.

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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 @ You Yangs

It feels odd calling this one ‘tourism’ as it is, technically, my closest parkrun. I had run the trial and volunteered at the launch but kept intending to get back and actually run it officially…..I just hadn’t. The fact that it is less than a 10 minute drive was very appealing, particularly after a late night at the Santa run so I rocked up there on Saturday morning, feeling a little bit yawny but grateful for the sleep in.

When you look on the parkrun page, it might seem a bit confusing to find but the team put up great signage and you will have no trouble finding it once you’re in the You Yangs park. The course is amongst the trees in a mountain bike section of the park with ample parking. It is a small parkrun, still building its core of regulars but is friendly and welcoming to all, which is great as it has attracted various tourists keen to experience the unique setting.

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Briefing done, we were very quickly underway and off on the gentle climb up the first kilometre – looks like a very, very small incline but it seems to hurt for a long time. It is a parkrun where you have to keep your wits about you as there are quite a few mountain bike crossings (all signed) where you must give way to any bikes out on the course (although there were none when I was there).

The surface is gravel and very easy on the feet – a nice change after a few weeks of running on concrete. Also a pleasant change is being out in the bush – such a serene and tranquil setting for a parkrun.

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As I headed back towards the finish, I was pleasantly surprised to find my time was ok, despite feeling tired. We followed up with some breakfast at a local cafe which was absolutely delicious and a bit of a hidden delight.

In fact, that sums up this parkrun – it really is a ‘must do’ for the location and scenery as well as the chance to spot wildlife. It reminded me how lucky I am to have this in my backyard (almost literally – I can see the You Yangs while hanging out the washing) and that I should run out here more regularly. So, if you haven’t already, make a date with You Yangs parkrun. Soon. I might see you there 🙂

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Hitting the trails – my introduction to Saddleback

I was lucky enough to explore a new trail in the holidays in the You Yangs which is virtually in my backyard. So I was actually lucky in a couple of ways – firstly, that’s it’s so close and secondly, that I had an awesome running buddy, Jill, who wasn’t put off by crappy weather forecasts.

I’d been lying in bed for a few hours, listening to the howling wind and occasional bursts of rain, thinking “Surely she’ll cancel” or more like “I hope she’ll cancel”. I had checked my phone multiple times, just in case. With 5 minutes until my alarm was due to go off, it was obvious that she was a lot tougher than I was and wasn’t going to cancel, wind or no wind so I had to do my ‘toughen up’ self talk and get out of bed.

By the time we got to the car park, I was so glad she’d ignored the weather as it was absolutely perfect – cold, crisp, a very light breeze and no rain. Weather to scare off the school holiday crowds but perfect for running in. We headed down the Branding Yard trail until we reached the bottom then we paused as we stared up at our goal – The Saddleback. It didn’t look too terrible – just a rather long hill. The fact I couldn’t see the top wasn’t scaring me. Much.

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Not a huge hill but big enough

We set off at a very gentle run. And it wasn’t long before I had to walk. And then, after not much longer, I needed to stop, turn around and take in the view (while I gasped for breath). This was indeed an impressive hill.

I lost track of how many times I had to stop but, ultimately, I didn’t care as we made it to the top. I very much felt like it was the start of a journey – my first ascent and that I’d do it faster next time. And regardless of how tough it was, it was absolutely beautiful, surrounded by stunning landscape and even escorted briefly by a trio of kangaroos bounding along with us.

We then took a much easier track back around to the car park, a trail which was much more compatible with breathing and talking while running. Soon enough, we were back at the car with 5km having been ticked off and feeling absolutely on top of the world.

It’s funny how, after just going for a little run, you spend the rest of the day feeling like you can conquer the world.
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