Steam Will Rise

I contemplated calling this blog ‘Swimming in the Rain’ but wasn’t convinced everyone would get the musical reference. Instead I have named it after an awesome song by old-school Australian rock band called Silverchair ( much more straightforward…). The shimmering, steaming image of a heated pool on a cold winter evening makes me think of this song and I often have it running through my head as I complete my laps.

A friend and I swim together every Thursday evening. We originally started swimming together when training for our first triathlon back in February when it was HOT, long summer evenings and warm air meant going for a swim was easy to get motivated for. We swam in the Newcastle baths and the water didn’t even really feel cold. I found it invigorating and always felt great after a swim. The first time I swam though was the first time I have done laps in several years, since I was a kid really. I had to stop for breath every couple of laps (50m pool), it felt really strange not being able to breathe exactly when I wanted. Quite similar to yoga really, timing breaths for movements. Our training went well though and before long we were doing 20 laps in a session (1 km). We still had breaks though and challenged ourselves to do 6 in a row before the triathlon. More recently I did 14 in a row and could have kept going really but stopped for a chat.

Luckily, we kept up our motivation and have continued swimming through winter. I think if we hadn’t started in summer it would have required a lot more motivation go in winter. It is HARD when it is dark, cold and raining to decide to go for a swim. It has rained several times and we can no longer go to the baths because they aren’t lit when we want to go. Can’t say I’m too disappointed though, the council pool we swim in now is heated, the baths are not. So, on a 15 degree (celcius) evening, we are jumping into a 27 degree pool. When you look at the water you can see it steaming in the evening air and the rain drops make patterns which reflect on the bottom of the pool as you swim. Last time we swam there, my feet actually felt that tingling burning feeling you get when you get in a hot shower or bath and have cold feet. When you think about it, swimming is the perfect rainy day exercise, you’re already going to get wet right?

Swimmin' in the rain, just swiiiiiimin in the rain, what a glorious feeling...

Swimmin’ in the rain, just swiiiiiimin in the rain, what a glorious feeling…

Things I like about swimming:

  • Its great exercise
  • It has minimal impact on joints and muscles – no risk of taking a tumble (aka, MTB riding)
  • That feeling of gliding through the water effortlessly I sometimes feel when I get into a good rhythm
  • I can get out of breath but don’t feel like I’ve run a marathon or climbed  a mountain
  • It is very therapeutic I feel. Back and forth with only your thoughts for company, following the black line in a sea of cooling green and blue. Actually I decided on my blog post title during my last swim.
  • Catching up with my mate
  • The hot shower afterwards

Things I don’t like about swimming

  • Sharing a lane with someone faster than me who overtakes during a lap.
  • Seeing a band-aid in the pool. Has only happened once but BLERK
  • Stripping out of my warm clothes at the side of the pool and walking out into the rain to jump into the pool
  • The first jump in and shock of cold that sometimes follows (depends on the day and pool temperature!)
  • How dry and tight my skin feels after. I do have some awesome Arbonne wash though which helps after a swim.
  • Forgetting how many laps I’ve done

All in all I thoroughly recommend getting out there and lapping it up. To start out (especially in winter) I recommend finding a heated pool! You’ll also need goggles (which don’t need to be super fancy), comfortable swimmers, a nice big fluffy towel, thongs for the showers and a plastic bag to put wet things after you’ve swum. I also recommend changing out of your wet clothes before driving home. Nothing worse than sitting on a wet car seat the following day!

So, next time it is raining and you can’t get out to do your run/ride/whatever, go for a swim instead. No excuses!

Advertisements

Monster Blog

My blog is always in the back of my mind. Unfortunately, despite being a classic DINK (double income no kids), I still find it difficult to find time to write, which is a shame because A LOT has happened this year worthy of blogging about! So I’m going to do a mighty big ‘Monster’ post to cover ALL of it so I’m up to date and can get back into blogging without having all the things I haven’t written about weighing on my mind!

The Triathlon

I competed in my very first triathlon in March. Now, let’s not get carried away, it was not a 12 hour iron man by any stretch. It was an enticer length women’s triathlon designed to, well, entice the ladies into trying a triathlon. It worked. I was so intimidated by the idea of a triathlon, especially the swim and the transitions (i.e. going from swim to bike and bike to run) that I wouldn’t have gotten up the nerve for anything bigger. To be honest, the idea of mixed gender triathlon intimidates me, which is super lame…in any case it was the perfect mix of circumstance to get me out there.

I was number 1 because of my last name. Not because I was super keen or seeded. Just to let to 20 people who asked/assumed that know...

I was number 1 because of my last name. Not because I was super keen or seeded. Just to let the 20 people who asked/assumed that know…

For anyone considering doing a tri, here are my top tips

–         Do it with a friend! I was so nervous at the start, getting my stuff set up and trying not to feel completely out of place but my good friend Tania helped me keep calm. We also had great fun training together and shared tips we’d found online (including using bright towels to find where our bikes were ‘racked’).

–         Practice your transitions (no brainer)…more than once. I thought I had my transitions sorted, had practiced a swim to ride and a ride to run. But my transition times were terrible on the day. I underestimated the importance of transitions for my time which was out by about 5 minutes on what I had wanted to do. I know it was my transitions which let me down. My husband who was there watching said I dawdled on the bike to run and stopped to do up my shoelace. I guess I used the transitions as a rest to recover from the leg before, but really they should be done briskly and running just as hard as you would in the run leg.

–         Don’t be scared of the swim! I was and it was unfounded. If you are worried about the swim just hang back a bit on your first one to start and do at least twice as long as the length in practice sessions (depends how far you are going! Ours was only 300 m but our training swims were 1 km). I jumped straight in with everyone despite fear of being hit in the face by an errant foot and didn’t get hit once. My strangest experience was coming up for a breath, facing the right, looking straight at someone less than six inches away who was coming up for a breath facing left! Awkward .

–         Pace yourself on the swim. I went out HARD (nervous energy no doubt) and the leg to the first buoy was super easy, to the second felt like I was dying and the final two were strong. So maybe don’t go out too hard for the swim. Don’t panic about being the last, I did and felt really self-conscious and like I would be the last out of the water. As long as you have done some swim training beforehand, you won’t be last in an enticer (I recommend doing an enticer!) and if you need to catch your breath for a second or around the buoys, just do breaststroke! It’s not the end of the world!

–         Think through what you are wearing and the order you will need to change. I wore leggings for the ride/run which – after the swim – were very difficult to get on in a hurry. That was a mistake – nothing tight!!

–         Get a support team! Every time I passed my cheer squad I got a huge boost and they always made me smile yelling funny things out or just cheering.

All in all, I felt like it was a real accomplishment. Yes, it was only a tiny portion of the full Olympic distance tri (which I watched my brother-in-law compete in the next day, very inspiring!) but the challenge, fear and exhaustion all combined with adrenaline, strength and sense of achievement for us both to decide that next year, we’re going to do the next one up. Like big girls 🙂

To the Snow Fields – In Summer…

Well, not quite summer, but in early Autumn (March) hubby and I decided to load up the mountain bikes for a road trip…to the snow fields! During summer, they open up Thredbo – one of our favourite slopes in the winter, for riding.

On the way, we stopped in Canberra, which is a mountain bike mecca. So many places to choose from for riding! We decided on Stromlo which is a mountain bike park which makes Glenrock (my local) look pretty average (and it is not, Glenrock is massively sweet as bro). It was well maintained, the trails are well thought out and overall just sooooo much fun! I even tried a see-saw for the first time (and did it successfully once).

Our second ride at Stromlo was on the morning we had to get to Thredbo by the afternoon for our mountain bike induction. We chose a loop we thought would be doable in the time we had but ended up slightly stressed out as it took a bit longer than expected! Probably because of the truly monstrous climb which was involved – I almost died and had to have several breaks. In the end the trail was super fun and we were sad to leave but excited to get to Thredbo and do some full on downhill riding.

I’m not a downhill rider, luckily in the last season Thredbo put in what was referred to as a ‘flow-trail’ which was challenging but not out of the ream for an intermediate rider – probably not for full on beginners though. In order to get our passes, we had to do a mountain bike induction which basically involved some instruction on getting on the chair-lift with our bikes (which was surprisingly easy). We also had to do a quick test with our guide to show we had basic MTB skills, just going down a hill with a few turns which we passed easily. He said it was surprising how many people with zero bike skills wanted to try the trail and without some skills, its just plain dangerous. He then showed us down the flow trail to shows us the features and also point out where it crosses with the DH trail for hubby.

Thredbo on bikes!

Thredbo on bikes!

It was super fun but also a real challenge and kind of scary in places. We did the induction in the afternoon and were all set to go for a full day the next day. It was a good idea as the induction takes up a couple of hours and you still have to pay for a full-day pass afterwards if you want to keep going. I ended up doing the trail seven times and it took about 20 minutes each time. By the 4th or 5th, I was feeling it. In fact it HURT and not where you might expect. Of course my hands hurt from gripping the brakes just to stay in control (in fact when we took my bike to be serviced, they said I’d worn out my brake pads! Yep, that’s embarrassing). My forearms hurt the worst and every bump felt like torture. The first half was the worst, very bumpy, but the second half was smooth and super fun and by the bottom I thought ‘that wasn’t so bad, I could do another!’.

It was weird being at ‘the snow’, as well call it, when there was no snow. It was a ghost town. MTB riding on actual mountains has not really picked up in Australia to the same extent as in Canada (i.e Whistler). I think though that they need more trails before that will happen. Yes it was fun, but the same run over and over starts to lose its excitement and if we wanted to stay more than a day or two there needs to be more variety. All in all I think I enjoyed Stromlo the most, although I learnt a lot from my downhill riding. There is a downhill flow track on Stromlo we did once on the way to the snow and once on the way back. On the way back, I beat my first time by about 2 minutes, which I attribute to the confidence boost I got in Thredbo.

The Colo(u)r Run

A friend of mine asked me way back in February if I wanted to join her on the Color Run. I was hesitant. Firstly, in Australia we spell it with a u, i.e. Colour. Secondly, it is a purely for profit event with ‘runners’ able to contribute to charity at their will but no donations from the organisers. Thirdly, it is a total gimmick where people run in tutus and the majority do not even run it with people stopping to dance around in coloured powders like idiots. I mean, come on I am a runner, not some half-arsed walk/runner who needs a gimmick to want to run…

Um.

Yes, I own two tutus...

Yes, I own two tutus…

Yeah it was awesome. Soooo much fun with some great friends who were totally into it and we basically had fun dodging around people, not caring about getting dirty, or looking like idiots in our tutus, smoothing coloured powder on ourselves and each other and leaping around/pretending to be horses (it was around a race track) when we should have been running. Yes, a lot of people just sauntered the whole thing. Yes, we stopped to dance around like ‘smurfs (blue)’ or ‘oompa loompas (orange)’ at each of the colour stations. No, charity did not benefit. But do you know what? Even though I like to run for a cause, sometimes I just want to have some fun and am prepared to pay money to someone else to sort out the details.

And they damn well sorted it.

It was so well organized, no crowding or too much waiting which, for an event where over 10,000 people joined in (pretty much all of Newcastle was there it seemed), is saying something. The after party was good fun with music and hyped up DJs and everyone going nuts with their little finishing packets of powder, exploding everywhere.

It has actually gotten me excited about running again, I enjoyed it so much. I did parkrun the day before in preparation, knowing I wasn’t going to push on the event day, and did NOT enjoy my run. But after doing the colour run… I really wanted to go back and do a parkrun! Weird eh? I’m actually pretty keen to sign up for another event soon to keep my current running motivation going. I was reading through my old City2Surf posts and thinking about how defeated I felt afterwards compared to how I felt after the Color run…no contest really. After City2Surf I wanted to vomit. After the Colour run I wanted to party.

So let’s party, feet, let’s party.

 In Summary…

I actually have about 2 or 3 other things to talk about (commuting to work by bike, loving on MTB riding a bit more, swimming during winter, RAW challenge) but this is more monster than I had intended and I have some other shit to do. So I will leave you with some Mantras I’ve been using lately:

No-one is thinking about you. They’re thinking about themselves…just like you

Why should they overtake you? You are strong, fast and ride all the time. You ARE the fastest

I LIKE going to the gym. It isn’t a chore, it’s a privilege!

Happy travels!

The odds of being eaten by a shark

Due to my engineering background, I understand risk analysis. I do risk assessments all the time in the laboratory where I do my research. Anyone who has done a risk assessment will understand the risk matrix which sets the consequence versus the probability to determine the risk. Anything with a high probability and high consequence (i.e. death, permanent disability etc) is a no no. In fact anything with a high consequence is generally ruled out in the lab, even if the probability is unlikely.

Strangely, risk analysis is not something I consciously do in my normal life, despite the fact I do many risky things. I snowboard, mountain bike, commute by bike, I go running by myself in the dark among other things. The risk is high in many of these activities with very high consequence, as I recently found out when I gave myself a concussion falling off my mountain bike, not to mention the 4 stitches in my shoulder (which had to be scrubbed under anesthetic to get rid of the dirt…).

Overconfidence = stitches

Overconfidence = stitches

But actually, when I think about it, I actually DO assess risks constantly. When on my mountain bike, I will walk sections I am uncomfortable with or not ready for, I will slow down when trying a new trail, I take compression bandages (for snake bites), always have my phone and make sure I tell someone where I am. My fall was a result of overconfidence and doing something I knew to be pretty silly (trying a large, for me, jump). When I run by myself, I am usually with my dog who is pretty scary looking, although harmless as a kitten (maybe a bit more harmless than a kitten, those things have sharp claws while the worst Melvin would do is lick you…). I also run in well-lit and populated areas. When I snowboard I wear a helmet and try to scope out new, possibly difficult runs from the chair lift. I also wouldn’t snowboard by myself and don’t let myself get out of control while boarding.

I can’t eliminate the risk without completely stopping all the things I love, so instead I try to bring it down to an acceptable level.

On that note, a friend has recently asked me to come open ocean swimming and I am considering the possibility. She goes with experienced ocean swimmers and she recounted her first time out to me. First, they look for a rip. Not to avoid, but to use to get ‘out the back’ behind the surfers and waves. Then they swim, often from one beach to another along the headland. It. Sounds. Terrifying. But also….exhilirating. She said it is incredibly beautiful and uplifting thing to do. But like, what about sharks? I’m not going to lie, the thought is so terrifying to me I may not be able to go through with it. BUT If I think about the risk assessment matrix the probability is so low it is practically non-existant…let’s look at some facts.

There have been 202 shark attacks in NSW in the last 100 years. According to the same website, the risk of a fatal shark attack was calculated to be 1 in 292,525 (0.0003%) based on ocean use and population statistics.

In comparison, 369 people were killed in NSW in fatal car accidents in 2012. According to stats in the ‘Road Traffic Crashes in NSW, 2012’ report, this is 0.74 fatalities per 10,000 licence holders – a percentage of 0.007%, which is a 1 in 13,514 chance.

So I am 21 times more likely to die in a fatal car accident than be killed by a shark.

My calculated risk of death is therefore much higher in the drive to the beach than the swim at the beach. Numbers crunched. Logically then, if I accept the risks to drive a car, I should be able to accept the lower risk of swimming in the ocean. Logical decision making says yes.

Emotional decision making…still on the fence. Stay tuned.

Back in the Saddle

Sometimes you just need to bite the bullet and do what you are putting off or dreading. Fear is an interesting thing and I always think about an experiment involving spiders which I came across a few years back. Basically, people scared of spiders experience a spike of fear and adrenaline when they first see a spider. This initial feeling of fear is the most intense and does not increase past this point the longer they are looking at the spider.

Running was my spider until this morning. You see, I haven’t been running this year since I have been focused on the thrilling sport of mountain bike riding (and let’s face it, I just didn’t feel like running). Although I want to keep up my riding, it is also time to get back in the running saddle (the horse analogy would really be more appropriate to bike riding I suppose…). I have been putting it off and making excuses since my last parkrun 8 weeks ago!

My time was not the best. In fact it is my third slowest ever (for parkrun). But you know what, I ran the whole thing. I went. I ran 5 km. I set my alarm, got up and went out for a run. I almost bailed several times: when I set my alarm the night before, when my alarm went off (the first, second AND third time), after I got dressed and once I was in the car were ALL breaking points where I asked myself how much I really wanted to go (the answer was an unconvincing: “lots?”).

But I am so, so happy I went. Now I KNOW I can still run 5 km and it isn’t horrible. I didn’t die, in fact I felt pretty good after which means I could have gone faster. My initial fear has spiked. I faced it and now I can move on to enjoying running again. This first time is the hardest it is going to be; it all gets easier from here. Which is just as well because….

I’m doing a TRIATHLON! That’s right, a friend and I have signed up for a triathlon! Impressive, no? Um, no not really. It is an enticer tri-athlon for women to encourage involvement in the sport (brilliant idea) – and it worked on us! The distances are as follows:

SWIM = 300 m (cake. My friend Tania and I swim that easy in our weekly sessions)

RIDE = 10 km (too easy. I ride 10 km routinely and often through the bush, so on the flat it will be a cinch)

RUN = 3 km (puh, not even a parkrun!)

However…put them all together and I don’t know how it will all work out. Especially since it is in less than a month and I have only just started running again… I have no idea how long it will take, I don’t know how I will feel after each leg or where I will sit in the scheme of the other entrants. But I am going to do it and I will be training as hard as I can over the next few weeks in a last ditch attempt to not completely embarrass myself!

To get motivated, I dug through my old Womens Health mags and did some creative (for me) cutting and pasting. I called the book my ‘find your motivation’ picture book. I think it worked. I definitely feel like going for a run when I look at the running page and I am always keen to go riding so that one works a little too well (screw work lets got for a MTB ride!!).

Cutting and pasting is not just for kindergarten...

Cutting and pasting is not just for kindergarten…

I found it useful anyway. Weight loss is such a small part of why I ride, run and sign up for events like triathlons – but it can easily become the focus. So why am I running? Because I like to run, I like how I feel while running and after a run. I like how it makes me feel physically – strong and powerful. I like the effect fitness has on my daily life, enjoying the natural world and the city I live in.

YOLO right?

Queen of the Mountain

I LOVE Mountain bike riding. Since investing in my kick-ass bike in September (a Specialized Camber Comp 29er, dubbed ‘The Saint’) I have been tearing it up (kind of) in any and every MTB park I can find. I have been LOVING. Every. Sweet. Second.

My Camber, also named 'The Saint' (it is the St Kilda football team colours, you're welcome dad)

My Camber, also named ‘The Saint’ (it is the St Kilda football team colours, you’re welcome dad)

MTB riding and Snowboarding

How to explain the thrill of MTB riding? If you snowboard, it is very similar, I think, to boarding in several ways.

  • Being a beginner is HARD – there is a steep learning curve with both
  • Some runs are better than others
  • You finish each run on a high
  • You have to pick your line carefully when going down a trail, some lines are better than others and some are easier than others
  • Doing jumps starts off as something scary and accidental and ends up being a thrilling part you try to incorporate into every run.
  • You often fall off, or ‘bail’ as I like to say. Risk of major injuries is high and you are likely to come away – even on a good day – with a few scrapes and bruises.
  • ADRENALINE. Hello friend.

The similarities end on the ascent which, in snowboarding, is a relaxing glide to the summit. In MTB riding…it requires somewhat more effort.

Fitspo

MTB riding gets you FIT. Depending on the type of trails you ride, the fitness involved can vary but is always at a high level because the focus changes. Cross Country is fast and flowing, all mountain has fast and slow bits (ascents normally are slow) but also should flow on a good run. Downhill is another kettle of fish and one I have not had any inclination to try. This is the type where you need a full face helmet, body armour and people tend to cracks bones with astonishing ease. My husband has a downhill bike and all the gear and I always worry about him. He showed me the downhill track when we did some all mountain riding at Ourimbah and it scared the bejeezus out of me.

You won't see this little fat duck on that berm track...

You won’t see this little fat duck on that berm track…

For a beginner, fitness is something I struggled and still struggle with. It is very different to running fitness and uses different muscles with pressure in many different places over the body. Sometimes, the climb is so hard it can make the descent not seem worth the slog. Certainly gets the heart rate up. Mostly I think though that effort is fairly even across the ride. You can catch your breath on a downhill section, but muscles still need to be braced and can even end in cramps on descents. On a particularly steep descent I tend to grip the handle-bars a wee bit too hard and end up with sore hands and wrists. Generally my thighs ache by the bottom from being braced in ‘attack’ position and using my body as suspension – depending on the length of the segment.

Nature and its Charms

The beauty of the Australian bush is hard to describe. One of the places I ride (Glenrock) is particularly stunning as it also has ocean views and wild, ‘untamed’ bush vistas. Sometimes you will be riding through close bush and then sweep down into a gully across a creek and over a small bridge, or through a path strewn with old and beautifully patterned rocks.

Part way through a track I have dubbed 'Fern Gully' in Jesmond

Part way through a track I have dubbed ‘Fern Gully’ in Jesmond

The trail head at Awaba

The trail head at Awaba

Glenrock after a fire went through.

Glenrock after a fire went through.

Most MTB parks are situated in state forests and, although you do tend to make quite a bit of noise, the wild life is still there. I have seen a goanna, frilled neck lizard and a wallaby on my rides. My husband has seen an echidna and even stopped once to shoo one off the trail.

Nature also has somewhat of a downside – I often shudder as I shoot through a spider web or have an adrenaline spike when I see a snake-like stick on the trail…I have started to carry pressure bandages and often GPS track my ride in the case of a snake bite – but fear is not going to stop me from riding.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go

There are a myriad of MTB parks in the vicinity of the Newcastle area, the best of which is Glenrock as it is close by and very beautiful. The trails there are All Mountain, meaning a blend of up and down hill as well as some cross-country type trails thrown in. In organized and well maintained parks, generally the trails are named, just like in snowboarding (another similarity). I like the name of the track Seuss land – but it is a horrible up hill climb. Another soul destroying ascent is called ‘Snakes and Ladders’ while the randomly named ‘Kenny’s’ and ‘BJ’s’ are two of my favourite. Other excellent MTB parks less than 2 hours’ drive away include Taree, Ourimbah and Awabah – all of which I have had a crack at.

Another area to ride is Jesmond, it is not a state forest so Melvin can come along for the ride. The down side is that the tracks aren’t maintained and can be covered in sticks or washed out from the rain – it’s a bit touch and go. Jesmond is also pretty much a one hill pony, big climb up followed by a descent and repeat. So I find it to be more exhausting than Glenrock or other MTB parks which have a bit more cross country riding (which tends to be flatter to encourage speed).

I also like the idea of a MTB holiday, similar to a snow trip but instead of loading up the boards we load up the bikes. I would love to ride in Canada, the Rockies would be spectacular and Tasmania also has amazing MTB riding. It really opens up a whole new world of exploration and is a special way to see the world and appreciate its beauty I think.

Boys and Their Toys

Those of you who know me may also know I get a bit of a thrill from doing things generally considered to be more the dominion of men. Engineering and snowboarding are two prime examples. MTB riding is also very much in this category. If fact you only need to look at stats on Strava (the App) to see where the majority lies (although this could also suggest Strava is mostly used by men, but I don’t think that is the case). When you ‘Strava’ a ride, your progress is tracked via GPS. When you complete a pre-determined segment, your time taken to complete this segment is logged and compared with other riders. Anyone can create a segment and a single loop can be made up of several overlapping segments. When you are first in a segment, you are named ‘King or Queen of the Mountain’. I am Queen of the Mountain in a few tracks no other women have Strava’d (winner!) which is awesome, but also sad that more women aren’t getting out there. Here is an example of a ride I Stava’d.

Unfortunately men do tend to dominate in this arena, their times are considerably and consistently faster than women on Strava. I’m not sure why, although I have heard it said that men and women assess risks differently, which is why guys tend to proliferate in extreme sports. I suppose in general that may be true, but I don’t see why it would make men better MTB riders since the best riders are always in control and risk plays a role only when there is the chance to lose control…I would think.

I can say however that I don’t think the men of MTB riding are DOMINANT necessarily; in fact every single person (man or woman) I have come across in the bush has been incredibly friendly and even supportive. I had a somewhat embarrassing moment of making it to the top of a particularly steep incline and shouting out ‘Wohoo! I did it!!’ to Hubby, who was in front of me, when a guy rode past a said ‘Great Work!.’ Perhaps the support stops once you pass the beginner/intermediate level since right now I am not challenging anyone (literally no one) with my speed. In any case, it is nothing like surfing from what I have seen. The culture is much more inclusive and less territorial – where I have been riding.

The Lone Wolf

One of the things I love about MTB riding is how in the moment it makes you feel. You can’t be distracted or thinking about anything else, only the trail and the response of your body. It is incredibly cathartic to go out for a ride by myself. Sometimes I don’t even see anyone (depends when I go). It can make men feel like, even though I know I’m in the middle of suburbia, I am out in the wilderness.

The Lone Saint

The Lone Saint

I also love going riding with my husband. I used to feel guilty for making him come with me as I am far, far slower (he has been riding since he was a kid). Luckily, recently he told me he likes to go with me for the breaks he gets (needless to say, I basically don’t get breaks when we go together)! I also like taking my dog, Melvin along for the ride. I can’t take him to Glenrock (it is a state forest, no dogs allowed) but he can come to Jesmond with me and he LOVES it, possibly even more than I do. He races ahead, tongue lolling and gets really excited when he sees me putting my bike in the car.

I have done one ride with a group and enjoyed it as well, but it can be difficult to find people to ride with at your level. It’s all very well going out for a ride with my husband and slowing him down, but going out for a ride with someone else who wants to go faster…might be uncomfortable. I am pushing myself though and improving, maybe one day soon I’ll be ready for a faster group ride.

You can expect many more posts on this topic, it really is an amazing sport and I am slowly but surely being consumed by it entirely. I am trying not to forgo runs in place of rides all the time, but it is certainly happening more frequently. What can I say other than….they see me rollin’. They hatin’.

I run…to leave the old me behind

On Sunday I participated in ‘Run Newcastle,’ a new event which has come to town (there seem to be more and more each year which is great). I hadn’t put much thought into it, certainly hadn’t been training, but my sister said she was doing it and I should too.  So, last-minute decision, I was in!

The night before I was looking through my race pack and the bib had something a little bit different on it: A space asking WHY I was taking part. It really made me stop and think. Why WAS I doing it? I wasn’t training for it, trying to lose weight or get fit, I wasn’t trying to raise money or set a good example (although I do like to think I am setting a good example for my darling niece and other little treasures in my life). So why? To support my sister whose idea it was? Partly, but there is more to it. I realised I wanted to do it because quite simply I wouldn’t have dreamt of doing it only a few short years ago. I trained for months for my first 5 km, this race I signed up only the week before on a whim. I have changed, and I think it is important to reflect on that.

Good question...

Good question…

I think it may be the best fun run I have done. It wasn’t too long, I wasn’t stressing about it beforehand and…. I bloody well smashed it! It actually had a few quite large hills, but I had gone in with a game plan: walk the hills. City2Surf (shudder) I ‘ran’ up the hills, but my pace was so slow I was basically walking. This time, I walked FAST. I power walked with geeky arms swinging up the hill for the steepest parts and then ran again.

Here’s the kicker, I still did the run in only just over a 6 minute kilometer (39 min 20 for 6.5 km, they were a little misleading calling it a 6 km run as it was actually more!)! That’s only just over 5 km in 30 minutes timing which is incredible since the last parkrun I did (also 5 km) was 32 minutes. Even more incredible that today I did another 6 km run, no hills or walking, and my pace was much slower at 6 min 30 seconds per km! Why was Sunday so good? How did I perform so well? I think it was just a combination of great weather, good lead up, pumping atmosphere, walking the hills (GENIUS method, I truly am converted) and really pushing myself down the hills to an astonishing (for me) pace (my max pace recorded was 4:06 min/km! Say WHAAA???).

We also got the nicest event tee I've gotten! Win win!

We also got the nicest event tee I’ve gotten! Win win!

I felt so pumped afterwards (can you see me finishing with a winners double hand pump at the finish line?)  and was super proud of my sister who did an incredible 5 minute 40 second timing (finishing in 36 minutes 30 sec). Her ‘why I run Newcastle’ reason was to set a good example for her baby girl Cate and I know Cate will one day appreciate the achievements of her incredible super-mummy, I know I do. After the race I just stared at my splits (1 km splits that is) shaking my head at the pace. I’m not sure I could do it again, it just seems so unlike me…I have hardly been doing any running lately (barefoot testing be damned) and instead all my efforts have mainly been devoted to MTB riding. In fact I am obsessed with getting out on the trail and no doubt some of my running success was due to the improved fitness from riding so much.

I also missed posting about the Fernleigh15 which was a 15 km fun run along a track in Newcastle called, surprise surprise, the Fernleigh Track. Another event I signed up to from inspiration by my sister and, once again, hadn’t given a lot of thought to. It was pretty fun although very bloody long (15 km in 1 hr 46 min 15 seconds average pace 7 min/km – we walked a bit of it) but my sister and I did it together which was lovely. We walked parts (no way I could have run the whole thing without training for it).

I like to give a thumbs up when I pass a camera, such a loser...

I like to give a thumbs up when I pass a camera, such a loser…

All in all I liked it so much better than the City2Surf and think I will make it the focus of my training as next years big run…and just be a spectator at next years City2Surf!

In the end it has reminded me that running can be fun. I don’t need to make it the focus of my life, but I will be incorporating it more than I have been lately. And leaving my old self well and truly behind…

The slide…

My last post was so, so smug. Look at me, all happy in the achievements of my goals and not having to worry about them any more…Since then (over a month ago) I believe I have started what is referred to as ‘the slide’. It is the one you begin innocently enough, maybe eating something you haven’t had for a while  (*cough, Nutella)… and end up in a few years time right back where you started, only this time with pictures of yourself which show your descent into madness. No I haven’t put on weight (have been the same for ages now…that 3 kgs I thought would melt away by reverse psychology of ‘not wanting to lose more weight’ hasn’t eventuated..), but I HAVE ditched many of the healthy food habits I had been gently introducing and started some dangerous eating behaviour.

1. Doubled Up Afternoon Snacks.

Yes, it’s a good idea to have a snack between lunch and dinner to avoid starvation and blow-out at dinner time. But is it a good idea to have two afternoon snacks? One consisting of nice healthy cup of tea and trail bar or piece of fruit and low-fat yogurt – and then another, only an hour or so later, consisting of bread (wholemeal, but no doesn’t make up for it) smothered in something delicious (*cough, Nutellla). Or raisin toast with butter. Or a milo and tablespoon of peanut butter. These are ‘not really hungry’ snacks which are so, incredibly pointless and calorie dense. But I can’t seem to help myself! Even as I stand there waiting for my toast I am thinking ‘this is a mistake, I don’t need this. I won’t be hungry for dinner if I eat this. What am I doing? Stop it, stop it, stop – oh well toast has popped…’.

First step: Identify the problem.

  • Boredom
  • Opportunity
  • Not having a big enough lunch
  • Not having a big enough first snack

Second Step: Plan of attack

I think a large part of the problem is boredom and opportunity. Opportunity as in: we stock Nutella in our pantry. BIG MISTAKE! When hubby came home with a jar and a smile on his face I  was like “what?! why did you buy that and now lets eat some out of the jar with a spoon”. Since I can’t convince him to stop buying it, I need to start a blanket ban, just like hot chips (yep, 10 months and counting without). NO MORE NUTELLA!!! I REFUSE TO EAT YOUR HAZLENUT GOODNESS. No Nutella November I’m calling it (nice ring to it?). OK, that’s done. Next. Plan activities IMMEDIATELY after work. This seems to work for me on days I actually do it, I plan a gym session, run, MTB ride or similar straight after work so there is no hanging around thinking, hmmm guess I’ll read my book and have a snack’. Nope, no more. Finally: Don’t skip healthy afternoon tea. Make sure I have at least a piece of fruit before I leave work for the day.

2. Grazing and Snacking After Dinner

I am going to lay the blame once again at Nutellas door. But biscuits and dip have just as much to answer for. This is again boredom eating I believe and possibly also a result of poor meal planning for dinner. I have let my ‘five serves of veggies’ habit well and truly lapse and my lunches and dinners have suffered for it, meaning I am less satisfied after meals. For shame!

First Step: Identify the Problem

  • Boredom
  • Less satisfying dinners
  • Habit and expectation

Second Step: Plan of Attack

Blanket ban on after dinner snacks. If I MUST have something, I can have a tea, or piece of fruit. Also, ramp up the veggies woman! They take a long time to eat, have so many nutrients just waiting to make me feel a million bucks and can be super tasty.

3. Last-Minute Lunches

I have been…lazy lately. No other word for it really. But I also partly blame my husbands shift work for often disrupting our routines which mean grocery shopping and the start of the work week are often out of sync.  Nevertheless I have had a subway meatball sub TWICE in one week as well as a chicken schnitzel burger. My other lunch was a microwave meal and a take-away chicken sandwich on WHITE bread. The horror. Sounds really bad when I put it all together like that. Back to organisation stations!

First Step: Identify the problem

  • Lack of organisation
  • Laziness
  • Mecca of take-away food in near vicinity of workplace
  • Lack of lunch ideas

Second Step: Plan of attack

Get organised! No matter what is on, I should be able to spare and hour for grocery shopping at SOME POINT on the weekend. Just pick something healthy and make it. Also, start going to the farmers markets again! Much nicer way to shop plus locally grown. This week I am having wholemeal wraps with boiled eggs, mayo and lettuce with carrot sticks OR left-overs, apricot and almond muesli bar and fruit. Breakfast will be porridge with strawberries and dinners have been planned out including a veggie rich spaghetti bol. TICK.

Other things out of control:

  • Portion sizes
  • Cheese control (amount of cheese added to meal)
  • Soft drink in take (yes its Coke Zero, no its not a better choice than water)
  • Eating out
  • Chocolate consumption
  • Caffeine addiction
  • Wine and cider consumption (I LOVE pear cider)
  • Eating what my husband eats (i.e. ice-creams and chips…)

Yep. Should really  nip those in the bud ASAP.

My exercise regime has been intense lately and I have really stepped my fitness up a notch by discovering a high intensity sport I LOVE to do (more on that soon) and think it is the only reason I haven’t started stacking it on. So get your s$#@t together self and work out what is important. Nutrition is definitely on the important list so: MAKE. IT. HAPPEN. Right after this magnum ego…