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?

City2Surf and other mountains (real and metaphorical)

City2Surf dawned bright and clear. An unseasonably warm winters day (25 plus degrees Celsius). I woke early, sculled my iced coffee and a banana and proceeded to drink as much water as my bladder would hold. We got dressed, pinned on our race-bibs and (after several nervous toilet stops) headed out from our hotel after watching the first wave of runners and pushers (elite wheelchair) leave on the TV coverage. The first person finished long before we started.

City2Surf is staged in sections because there are way too many people to all go at once (>85,000 registered participants). Even so it was estimated that there were upwards of 20,000 people in our group alone. The elite runners are off at 8.00am followed by another stage of seeded runners (runners who have a qualifying time) and three unseeded sections named ‘blue’ group, ‘yellow’ group and, back-of-the-pack, ‘orange’ group. Orange group is the only group you are allowed prams and is also where people who want to walk or dress up in costume tend to go (not all though apparently, as we found out).

Hubby and I were in yellow and lined up after checking in on my brother-in law and my niece who were running (or being pushed) from the front of back of the pack. What felt like only a short time later (we gave up trying to find my sister who was also in our start group – the wave of humanity prevented that!) we were off!!

Pumped up at the start line.

Pumped up at the start line.

Kind-of, it took us 10 minutes after the starters gun to get to the start where our timing chips would activate. But after that we were off! Except for dodging the many, many people who were walking (really? already??) or just jogging super slow. The first kilometer was slooow, considering it was downhill and we were fresh, winding our way through people who had decided to start towards the front and walk anyway (REALLY? slightly frustrating but never mind, they are entitled to walk…). We picked up in the second and third kilometer and I was feeling good for the first 5-6 km. It was pretty tough still, but I wasn’t yet fighting my brain with the urge to stop. I even enjoyed looking at the crazy costumes and did the YMCA symbols along with everyone else as we ran past a road-side party and high-fived some smurfs and a Mickey Mouse. Hubby informed me we were over a minute ahead of what we needed to make sub 90. Great, I says, so lets just slow down to minimum pace for a bit so I could gather myself for heartbreak hill.

Heartbreak hill didn’t break me. I wanted to stop and BADLY after about a minute on the steep gradient. But I reassured myself saying ‘never mind, you will make this time back on the downhill’. My pace had slowed to almost a walk. In fact in retrospect perhaps I should have walked for a bit, it might have given me a bit more energy for what was to come. 8th kilometer in the hill was still going. Not broken yet, my sub 90 minutes is still possible. 9th kilometer a small break and then another hill. And another. And another. As my goal slowly slipped away I realised I hadn’t prepared nearly enough. I wrote a post last week about how I couldn’t make it up Bar Beach hill without stopping. A single hill. Perhaps that should have been a sign that I wasn’t as well prepared as I have should have been.

I think at one point I actually swore out loud in frustration “are you f$%#@ing kidding me, is that another f$#@%king hill?!?”. Once I had done it I immediately remembered yelling out EXACTLY the same thing last year. I really should have known what to expect… but seriously, it is just one hill after another. The whole course is either up or down hill and the down hill sections feel pretty damn short. I felt like I was battling a mountain. The urge to stop was almost unbearable. My brain was screaming at me ‘stop running you fool!!’. And I still had another 4 km to go. Every climb I would tell myself that this was it, the last hill then its down hill to Bondi. Oh, except for the next effing hill, and the next.

Sub-90 was out the window. Next goal, beat last years time. Beyond that…just run the whole damn thing. At the 11 km mark, it didn’t seem possible. There was a particularly steep rise at this mark that almost stopped me…but I kept going. 12 km, finally, I can see Bondi and its down hill from here!! I put everything I could into that downhill section and it is my fastest time of the race. Finally, the last kilometer, soon you will be able to stop and the pain will be over. No more City2Surf and you never ever have to do it again if you don’t want. All downhill from here, all downhill from…IS THAT ANOTHER F%$#@ING HILL?!

Yep, the last km is slightly uphill and at that point – when my feet were on fire, my head was pounding, breath gasping, legs tingling, the sun beating down with full intensity – I just couldn’t do another hill. I would have cried if I had any liquid left. I wanted to stop MORE THAN EVER. But it was the last km. No way was I stopping.

It felt like the longest kilometer I have ever run, and I ran the last 200 m at one of my fastest paces of the race. I can still vividly remember feeling like my feet were burning . I could see the finish line. Keep moving feet, shut the hell up brain we are NOT stopping in sight of the finish line! At the end the guy on the mic was saying ‘hands in the air guys! you’ve done it!’. So I did. Then I stopped running and waited for the relief to flood through me.

And waited.

I felt faint, light headed and nauseous. Where was the relief?? The ability to breathe? I was bent over, sucking in air and I felt worse than when I was running. Sitting down for awhile helped. Its weird though because my face wasn’t even red like it normally gets, it was white (hubby said).

Feeling like death warmed up WAY too much

Feeling like death warmed up WAY too much

My hands and feet were tingling. As soon as I tried to get up I could barely walk and hubby flagged down some first aid. I sat in the tent and had my pulse taken and vitals checked. After some gatorade and very nice, obviously young graduates fussed over me I started to feel a bit more human. Nothing wrong with me of course, I just needed some time to recover my senses. But I felt like I was hung over the whole day.

I also felt like I had failed.

I pushed my body as hard as it could possibly be pushed (its inability to move afterwards is proof of that) and my mind had triumphed over my (obviously reasonable) instincts to stop to the point where I nearly made myself very sick. And it wasn’t enough. I didn’t make sub-90 minutes. Hell, I didn’t even make my time from last year (this year was 96 min 30 s, last year was 95 min 45 s).

But I did run it. All of it. I did push myself. I pushed more than I would have thought I could. I pushed through all my mental barriers, I pushed my body harder than it had ever been pushed before from sheer mental determination.

So, what can I learn from this? Give up? Accept failure and give up running (which I definitely contemplated around the 12 km mark)?

Don’t give up, you never know who you might be inspiring

Precisely. Here are my take-away messages:

1.  I didn’t train enough. No way did I do enough hill training. Instead of running Bar Beach hill once or twice total, I should have run it everyday. I should have run up and down Bar Beach hill 5-6 times in a training session. Hills are clearly my weak point, I ran 15km no worries in preparation on a flat course with pretty much no pain and felt great the next day so it is not a distance thing, it is a hill specific hatred (the pain is still fresh…). I also peaked too early in my training and used the snow as an excuse to slack off. Just because I set myself a goal didn’t mean I was going to reach it without preparation. It’s the 6 P’s: Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

2. I am not naturally athletic (I’ve spoken abut this before) and I have only been running for 18 months. My base fitness is hard-won, changeable and depends heavily on the extent of training I have done. Mentally I am pretty strong (I feel as though I have proven that to myself), physically…I need time and work.

3. If a goal is easy, it isn’t worth fighting for. For someone who has not played sport or exercised with any intensity my whole life until 18 months ago, I set myself a pretty darn lofty goal. I didn’t make it this year. Maybe I won’t next year. Maybe never, but should I stop fighting for it? No way.

I was hard and I hated maybe 50% of it. But I will do it again, if just to prove to myself that I can.

It didn’t break me, and one day I will be stronger.

p.s. this post is dedicated to my husband for putting up with my ‘running rage’ which occurs when he runs with me and suggests I run a bit faster. Thanks for running with me and supporting me in my madness xo

Left to my own devices

This weekend I had zero plans. No brunches, dinners or social catch-ups of any kind and my husband was mainly on shift. So what did I do with such an open slate? Well, I read my book (luxury), caught up on Game of Thrones, and, you guessed it, worked out! I got a PB in parkrun on Saturday morning (5 km in 30 minutes and 25 seconds). Melvin even got paparazzied, such a poser and obviously interested in the photographer, lol.

parkrun (Newy)

parkrun (Newy)

I also did a weights session, bush walk and 9 km run on Sunday. So far I have ticked off all my City2Surf training runs except for a tempo run I missed on account of forgetting my socks when I turned up at the gym! Was really annoyed with myself, I had everything else, just no socks. I thought I might do a work out when I got home but hubby was determined to go to the pub for dinner. Sigh, the things I have to do…So I will squeeze in an extra session this week. My midweek runs need to get longer now in line with my training program so that will be interesting.

Since all that working out only took up a few hours I also had time to cook up a few storms including my favourite healthy pasta (it contains brussel sprouts! how can you go wrong with that awesomeness?) and a roast dinner. Melvin was pretty interested in that as well…

You realise we would all be better off if you gave that lab to me...

You realise we would all be better off if you gave that lamb to me…

Another market visit was also in order and while I tried to avoid the delicious treats they sell there, and focus on nutritious veggies, I did come home with a couple of fresh bagels and homemade strawberry jam. Holy cow, what is a bagel? How do they make them and what is the secret to their deliciousness??? And further, why are they not sold anywhere else? I may need to go to the markets every single weekend just to get bagels from the bagel lady and slather them with jam and cream cheese and – no no, be strong…

Goal Round-Up

Weekly goals

70 minutes of exercise a day

They say it takes a month to form a habit and this one is sticking around! I have made this goal in 5/6 weeks and it has definitely made me less likely to sleep though my morning walk, knowing that even that moderate exercise counts towards my total.

5 serves of vegetables

This one has been hard. Very hard. Although I now regularly include vegetables in my lunch and make sure a large serve is part of dinner I very much doubt I make the 5 serves a day every day. Weekends are especially hard as I am more likely to be out and about at lunch time and grab a sub or just have toast with peanut butter quickly at home. BAD! Need to brainstorm some ideas on how to sneak more veggies in on the weekend.

5-6 glass of liquid

Again this is harder on the weekend. I drink so much more when sitting at my desk and thinking about it rather than racing around. I also drink less tea/coffee on the weekends which is probably a good thing. I need to cut down on my caffeine! But it does reduce my overall liquid in take.

Monthly Goals

Last month I was looking to increase my cycling/riding fitness. I did spin once a week and went on far more rides than previously. But this month that has been eclipsed by my City2Surf training which is my current ‘monthly’ goal (even though it is still 2 months away, I guess I should say ‘short term’ rather than monthly), But that has been going very well and I have followed it almost exactly.

Yearly Goals

No hot chips. It has now been almost 6 months without hot chips! Yes! Too easy…they smell pretty amazing though and actually I have had a few weird dreams about eating hot chips. True story, I had a dream where the whole dream was me eating hot chips from a fish and chip shop. At the end I remembered I wasn’t supposed to be eating them and woke up with a jolt. I feel like that isn’t normal but not sure what to do about it….

THIS WEEKS GOAL:

I haven’t fit in any yoga this week and feel I would really benefit from it at the moment, my muscles feel very tight and I have done more reading about the relationship between core strength and running success lately. I don’t really like to do yoga in a group and the only yoga instruction I have is 90 minutes long which is just too darn long. So I am going to give Yoga podcasting a go. There is a podcast called ’20 minute Yoga’ which I am aiming to do one of EVERY DAY THIS WEEK. Yep, one a day starting after my gym session tomorrow. Should be yoga-riffic 🙂

But for now, I’m buggered after a weekend of me-time and am ready to curl up in front of the heater. Assuming Melvin will allow me some space…

Hot dog

Hot dog

An unhealthy obsession with health?

Nah. Although I do find that I get sick of thinking about if I’ve met my health goals for the day (have I had enough of x and too much of y?), or mulling over if eating that chocolate will really have any negative impact on my overall health and well-being.

My aim is for healthy living to become second nature, and I am hoping that by gradually adding healthy habits to my life they will become a part of who I am without constant need for thinking about it.

Recently, my husband has started night shifts and is developing some unhealthy eating habits involving binge eating – which I totally understand because shift work is so, so hard on your body. He did the shopping and, along with our usual haul, bought WHITE BREAD, CHIPS (Salt and Vinegar god help me), CREAM BISCUITS, CHOCOLATE and SUGARY JUICE.

I was completely horrified and my reaction/resulting lecture to my poor, tired husband made me realise that, actually, I have developed some healthy habits which are now second nature and, when faced with alternatives, I can make the right decision (or use my super-hero power of ‘iron will’ to resist what I know to be poor choices).

Your sugary goodness doesn’t tempt ME

Healthy habits I have already established:

SECOND NATURE

  • 2 pieces of fruit every day (too easy, I love fruit)
  • Eat wholemeal bread. White bread now seems like a junk food to me!
  • Drink low-fat milk and eat fat reduced version of other dairy (yoghurt, cheese etc) EXCEPT I indulge in a full fat slice of cheese sometimes at lunch (portion size controlled, more protein so keeps me full for longer. Plus its damn delicious) and think eating parmesan is pointless if its fat-reduced.
  • Don’t add sugar to tea
  • Only drink juice if it has no added sugar and dilute with water
  • 2 alcohol free nights a week. Actually I don’t drink much, most weeks I won’t have any alcohol although I will have a beer or glass of wine (sometimes a couple) maybe once or twice a month.
  • Check labels before buying a new product to determine overall impact on health
  • Exercise regularly and Include both weight training and cardio

A BIT MORE THOUGHT INVOLVED

  • Order salad or veggies and fish when eating out.
  • Avoid McDonalds, KFC or Hungry Jacks like the plague (1.5 years so far without)

WORKING ON IT

  • Avoid hot chips (5 months in…)
  • Eat 5 serves of vegetables a day
  • Exercise 70 minutes a day

NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN

  • Stop eating chocolate

 

I have a whole list of planned weekly health goals for the coming months but I think I need a consolidation week! I don’t want to push ahead too far and slack off on previous goals.

NUTRITION

I’m getting sick of eating carrots at lunch and need to spice things up a bit to keep some momentum forming my 5 serves a day habit. My plan of attack for this week is to make an eggplant sambal curry which gives 4 ½ serves of veggies in ONE GO for lunches this week (thank you Healthy Food Guide). I’m also going to work on some different veggie recipes. Having them steamed or raw will only keep me interested for so long! I visited the local farmers markets this morning and bought up a bunch of fresh, local, delicious looking veggies…I’ll figure out what to do with them later.

farmers market fun

Vegorama!

Vegorama!

EXERCISE

Last week I set the target of 70 minutes a day of exercise. I probably should have made it ON AVERAGE because I needed a rest day! So in a way I didn’t reach my goals…but in another way, if I do a bit of sneaky math, I did 😉 I actually did almost 80 minutes on average every day. I did up a little spread sheet (I heart excel, lol) to show my exercise week. I’ve colour coded it to show moderate (yellow), medium (orange) and high (red) intensity workouts. Yeah, I went there.

workout calendar may

It’s good to know I can have a day off and still meet my exercise goals. Looking forward to a week of consolidation and figuring out what the hell I’m going to do with all those veggies…

One week down, (n-1) to go

n being the number of weeks left in my life. Meant to be motivational (i.e.making  life long changes) but now I think about it is kind of creepy and morbid…never mind. On with the show.

LAST WEEK: 5 serves of vegetables a day

My weekly goal last week (other than getting my blog up and running) was to eat 5 serves of vegetables a day. After doing a bit of googling I found this useful website http://www.gofor2and5.com.au/ which might be a 90’s throw back website but had some indication at least of what constitutes a serve.

What’s in a serve? A carrot by any other name would taste as sweet…

I think I managed it, although part way through the week I started to worry a little I was eating TOO MANY vegetables.

I don’t eat organic vegetables. As a chemical engineer I don’t think agriculture without fertilisers and pesticides is sustainable in our modern world of ever-increasing population. Eating organic (I believe, I could be wrong of course) is a selfish western pretension. Plus the name is stupid, everything we eat is organic since it’s made up of carbon, just like us.

So I started to feel a little ill after each big serve of veggies and I thought… maybe there is something to this organic caper? Surely my body isn’t rebelling against eating what I’ve been told is just the right amount of vegetable matter? It might just be the pesticides on the skin? Normally I would peel the carrots I eat but have read that the skin retains a lot of the nutrients. Catch 22.

I am going to keep up the veggie game but maybe start giving them a much better wash before eating. If that doesn’t help I will consider trying ‘organic’ (stupid).. but I’m hoping it’s just my body getting used to eating more vegetables.

PRO’s: They really fill me up and I feel so, so full and not able to eat too much more really after eating a few serves. I also feel pretty smug eating a plate of veggies in front of guys at my work stuffing their faces with hot pies, chips and burgers washed down with coke and iced coffees. Bahaha, I will live so much longer than them. Probably. Man I could go a burger.

CON’s: They make me feel a little sick (as discussed). Also, they take a long time to eat and prepare.

THIS WEEK: Excercise a minimum of 70 minutes a day (moderate intensity at least)

I’m kind of cheating here because I already mostly do this. I take my dog for a 40 minute walk or bike ride each morning and normally go to the gym in the evening for at least 30 minutes (although those are easy to fob off. Not so this week!). Weekends are harder as I sleep in and only do one workout for max 1 hour so that will be interesting. When I say moderate intensity I mean heart rate > 140 BPM and can only just hold a conversation. My morning walks are generally pretty cruisy so I need to step that up and make the most of the fact that I am already up at 6 bloody am.

Along with my ‘NO CHIPS’ and ‘INCREASE CYCLING FITNESS” long-term goals and continuing my 5 serves of veggies a day…I think I’m going to smash this week! That, or, keel over part way through and go troppo on a Big Mac.

I will never regret exercising, I will regret NOT exercising

Someone has to be first….

My first post! Apologies in advance, this will be entirely uninspiring…

I am currently working on my blog to get all the pages set up before I begin blogging in earnest. I mainly wanted to make it pretty first before trying my hand at some writing (Procrastination? Possibly. Not a good start I suppose…) but I am mostly happy with it now, although I expect it will change as I frequently change my mind.

Here are some goals and motivators I am currently working on:

THIS WEEK: Eat 5 serves of vegetables a day

Oh so much harder than it seems, plus I am still relatively clueless as to what constitutes a serve. I’ve been cutting up cucumber and carrot at lunch and having beetroot juice (on first sip I’m like ‘blerk’ but after that it really grows on me). We also go out to dinner more than is possibly wise (in terms of money and healthy eating) but I am aiming to order only salads or fish meals since I don’t eat enough of either and that also increases veggie uptake.

THIS MONTH (May): Increase bike fitness

I very recently took up trail riding and love it…but my fitness is nowhere near where it needs to be for what I would like to be doing. This month I will be focusing on riding as much as I can, on the road, in the gym, spin cycling, on bike paths as well as some trail riding. I don’t have a very good bike though at the moment and feel it is holding me back in terms of trail riding (it changes gears without warning right at the worse moments, i.e. struggling up an incline  or trying to pick up speed before a drop) and is possibly downright dangerous…so will save my trail riding goals for a time of better fitness. I did a spin class on Monday and almost died, burnt 590 calories in 50 minutes which is a record for me. So thats gotta be good right?

THIS YEAR: No hot chips

Last year I gave up McDonalds which was a lot easier than I thought considering we live very close to one and often used to use it as a last-minute meal choice. This year, I am upping the ante, I can have McDonalds now (but don’t want to) but I won’t have hot chips. Not fish and chips, not restaurant meals that come with chips, any sort of takeaway or deep fried chip is now literally off the table. 4 months in and I’m going strong, it makes it easier to choose salads when I can’t go for the chip option. It is a little demotivating that giving up hot chips hasn’t lead to sudden and dramatic weightloss (I guess I didn’t actually eat that much of it) but I think in the long term it will help me automatically choose healthier options when eating out. I intend to do what I did with the Maccas thing, i.e. give it up completely for the year and up the ante next year. One step at a time.