Success is a Dish Best Served Cold

The premise of this blog is basically accidental weight-loss. I focus on filling my body with healthy, nutritious food while doing things I enjoy like running, snowboarding and mountain biking. I used to tell myself that actually weight-loss is just the plus-side to living a healthy mindful life. But lets face it, if I was naturally skinny…I wouldn’t run. One of the reasons I enjoy running is that I know how good it is for weight loss. I think I still think of myself as overweight. That people look at me and see who I’ve seen for over 10 years – overweight Jess.

But that isn’t me anymore. My BMI puts me in the ‘normal’ range. In fact, someone added a photo of me on facebook recently and I was amazed at how…healthy I look. Facebook acts as a bit of a timeline really and highlights how important it is to think long term.

timeline

I used to take my measurements weekly, but that fell by the wayside when I stopped thinking about it. Actually I weighed myself for the first time in awhile this week because I thought I had been eating relatively irresponsibly and was pleasantly surprised to see that, since starting this blog in May I have lost 4 kg and am comfortably below 70 kg, very close to my lowest weight last year when I was on wedding lock down,

I actually don’t really want to lose any more weight. Here is my theory: it is better to be at the higher end of average with a comfortable buffer between you and being overweight than the lower end and definitely not underweight. My reason being, well, its a little nuts but….if an an apocalypse came, I have a better chance of surviving. It also applys to getting some sort of serious illness, having a bit more meat on my bones might help me. Its like the best of both worlds, less chance of diet related long term illnesses…and a fighting chance in a ‘day of the triffyd’ situation.

I think I feel better about my weight and health now than I did last year because now, it feels real. I feel like I have actually walked the walk and its not just a passing phase. Now I can focus on things I love to do. For example, ride my brand new Specialized Camber Comp 29er  (it arrived today). I feel like a kid at Christmas, it is sleeping in the lounge room tonight because I loves it sooo much.

My new baby

My new baby

Playing around in the driveway

Playing around in the driveway

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Barefoot Beginnings

In the name of science, I have started running barefoot. Well, almost barefoot. I am taking part in a year-long running trial, one of the largest and most comprehensive internationally. I was ‘randomly’ allocated to trial the Vibram  FiveFinger Seeya, one of 11 possible shoes representing different degrees of support. And I was dreading it. Not only for their stupid appearance but for the inevitable pain of learning to run in a different way. Barefoot running forces you to run with a toe first strike (if you land heel first it is very painful). Toe-striking engages different muscles compared to heel-striking, especially in the foot, ankle and calve.

So. What are they like? Well, I actually kind of love the look of them, which surprised me. The colours are complimentary and subtle and I think they make my feet look…kind of dainty in a way. I have big feet, not huge but proportionate to my height which I would say is maybe a bit above average. Anyway, I also have wide feet and low arches. Not pretty feet. But in the FiverFinger, they look kind of cute. Having said that, the first time my sister saw me in them for a run she burst out laughing. Maybe they look more like clown shoes than I thought…

The Vibram FiveFinger Seeya

The Vibram FiveFinger Seeya

They feel very, very close to toe-socks. Very flexible and with only a small amount of plastic to protect the foot from the road. It took me about 10 minutes to put them on the first time, I just couldn’t get my damn toes in each of their allocated pockets. Frustration! Now they slide on easy, I think its because I just relax my foot and put them on like a normal shoe whereas the first time I was stretching them out to try and separate them. Now they are a quicker option to shoes and socks. They are very comfortable to walk around in and hug the foot gently.

Barefoot

It feels strange to run in them. I can feel the road and anything on the footpath through the shoe and avoid rocks carefully.  Today I got a rock stuck between the toes as I was running and had to stop to pick it out. The first time I tried them I only did maybe 1 km in them before changing into my other shoes. No problems I thought, that didn’t hurt at all! The next day my calves ached. The second time I thought I would run a bit further and pushed it it 2.5 km. By the end my calves and shins were hurting. When I changed into my normal shoes to finish the run I couldn’t keep going more than another 2 km or so because of the pain. But the worst part? The blisters. Every time I wore them they rubbed the top and side of my foot near the strap and are pretty painful (you can see the blisters in the top pic). Last week I did a couple of longer runs in them (>3 km) and the blisters were super painful with blisters starting on the bottom of my big toes. My calves were still hurting after every run and now my ankles were starting to hurt. This is despite realising that actually, I am a toe striker naturally so the transitions shouldn’t be overly painful. In my normal shoes I land maybe a little flat footed but certainly towards the ball.

Give up! I was advised. Why are you pushing it? I was asked. I started to ask myself the same thing.

But recently, it has started to click. I did 3.4 km in them this afternoon followed by a nice yoga session. I still had blisters (on the bottom of my big toes, pretty painful) but my ankles and calves felt fine for the run, bit sore afterwards but not a lot. The hills I did actually felt pretty good too. I have mentioned before that I struggle with hills and I suspect it has to do with my technique as I get a sore back after a lot of hill running.

In the end, I made a commitment to test the shoes (in the name of science) and I’m going to keep at it. I think I can see the light though, it is starting to get easier and I think they will be nice and cool for summer running. I’ll be doing my first 5 km in no time…

Struck down in my prime

By a little ole cold. Damn it! I’ve been saying all winter that I (touch wood) haven’t had my yearly cold yet. You know the one, it strikes when you aren’t expecting, early or late in the season. When it starts off you just feel a little tired, then achy, then yep – nose starts running like a tap and head feels full of cotton wool.  Mouth feels dry and no amount of water helps. I had something similar at the start of winter but I babied it and it went away. So, right when I want to be getting back into training (for what….nothing YET…), and adding in some new activities and getting pumped up for spring and summer, here comes this little bruiser.

I had last week off after you-know-what (I’m not going to talk about it anymore, I promise!) and went for my first run since (you know) on Saturday morning. Back to parkrun for a lovely morning with friends and family. I even got a little cheer squad when I finished up with my sister, niece, bff and her hubby and little girl and another good friend who does park run waiting for me at the finish. I was happy with my time of 31 minutes since I got there late and had to make my way through the crowd to get any sort of pace going.

Being cheered on at the finish line of my weekly parkrun

Being cheered on at the finish line of my weekly parkrun

But the rest of the day I felt blerk and realised pretty quick it wasn’t from the run, it was a cold. Since I am heading to the Snowy Mountains this weekend (yep, again – I luuurve snowboarding!) I CANNOT afford to be sick! This cold is going to fade into nothing if I have anything to do with (and actually I’m pretty sure I don’t really). What I can do, I will be doing. This includes:

  • Drinking copious amounts of fluids
  • Taking vitamins every day
  • NO STRENUOUS EXERTION
  • No walking in the early morning chill (sorry Melvin)
  • Healthy, nutritious eating with lots of fruits and veggies as well as dairy (I know, blerk with a cold but have read that yogurt especially is excellent for colds).

It will give me time, I suppose, to decide on a new work-out plan. I haven’t been to the gym much lately since I’ve been so focused on running but I miss my weights sessions and mixed cardio/spin. I also have plans. Big plans. I need to keep this fitness caper interesting or I am going to pack it in. My plans mainly revolve around:

  • Swimming! Yes I will be getting my hair wet (sigh. Maybe I should just chop it all off…) and doing some lap swimming at my gym, local pool and probably even in the ocean baths (when it gets warmer that is…). When I was younger i LOVED swimming laps but haven’t done it for many years. Should be fun?!
  • MTB Riding. As part of my ‘no hot chips’ reward system (it has now been over 8 months since a SINGLE hot chip has passed my lips) I can now choose myself a spiffo new mountain bike! I want to get back into riding and figure out if it will actually be worthwhile first… but am looking forward to getting the adrenaline pumping. Hubby is way faster than me and I need to build up some skills. We are going to map out a circuit for me to do and to work on by myself improving my time before I decide which (if any) new bike I would like.
  • Cross-Fit. I now have access to a gym who do cross fit sessions and want to take advantage of it. Although I am pretty well petrified of doing it, I am planning on going along with a friend to try it out. People become hooked on it and it seems like a fun group thing to do so I want to give that a shot. That one is definitely waiting until I’m a bit fitter…
  • Surfing? I used to surf (well, I tried it out for one summer) and never got any good at it or gained any confidence. I think it didn’t help that I was overweight and unfit at the time so felt judged and whale-like whenever I paddled out. I still have my board (nick-named ‘Shark-Bait’, not very well omened I suppose considering the Great White Shark nursery located off Newcastle) and maybe once I get a bit of fitness swimming it will be a better fit for me. We live in a beach-side town after all and I do love snowboarding, similar surely??
  • Barefoot running. I am starting to build up my barefoot running distances (I swear I will be doing a post on this, just want to log a few more kms first) and am aiming to run parkrun in my five-fingers by the end of the year. Yep, we’ll see how that goes!
  • Training for a half-marathon AND/OR ‘enticer’ length triathlon. Haven’t decided 100% yet if I will do both. But if I love swimming like I used to then the tri is a must and there are lots of great events in Newcastle I can do to give it a go. Not totally set on the half-marathon but if I can find a FLAT course I might do it…
  • Yoga. Still. I like being a yogi and stretching out my muscles, imagining them getting long and lean (I said imagine, I realise that’s not how it works…). I would like to increase my flexibility and mindfulness.

I have the luxury of time at the moment with nothing booked in (except the snow, again lol), but once I’m better I am going to come out guns blazing! No more one-trick pony for me, my fitness is going to be DIVERSE and FUN! Yay, looking forward to warmer weather and making the most out of long days of sunshine.

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

Ready to Rumble

Less than 24 hours to go! In fact this time tomorrow I will be in a world of pain, pushing my body and mind to its limits amongst 85,000 other runners, walkers and costumed bumblers. Am I ready? Hells yeah!!!!

Actually I’m getting really excited. I’ve had a good week of tapering including rest and moderate exercise. I wasn’t going to run yesterday but I decided to do an easy 30 minutes, taking my time and then do a yoga session. It was a good idea and reminded me why I like running. My favourite time of day to run (sunset) with my pal Melvin and a lovely stretch afterwards.

Today hubby is playing soccer (mad, since he is running City2Surf with me. Doesn’t he know he is meant to be resting? Answer: yes because I told him. *Shakes head disapprovingly*) and then we are heading to the big smoke for a relaxed night and dinner with fellow City2Surf runners. I’m all packed and ready to go.

Ready for some City2Surf action!

Ready for some City2Surf action!

The sweat bands are a new addition and salmon coloured so as not to match anything else. This is a little gross but when I run my nose runs with me and I’m sick of wiping it on my shirt (Hubby says we should call then snot bands. Yep. Classy.)

Check list includes:

  • Running pants (new Lorna Jane, my fav)
  • Racer back yellow shirt
  • Sports bra and Lorna Jane crop (for extra warmth and style more than anything…)
  • Garmin and heart rate monitor. I want this baby on the record
  • Race bib (bit pointless without this one)
  • Shoes (not Vibram Seeya, no way could I run the distance in them yet)
  • Headband to keep that pesky fringe off my face
  • A banana. Pre-race breakfast. I’m also going to get an iced coffee and neck them both 2 hours before race start.

I haven’t mentioned it but I’m running for a charity, the Black Dog Institute who raise money and awareness of mental health disorders including depression. If you would like to donate here is the link. Otherwise move on with your life.

I’ve already had two big glasses full of liquid and this trend will continue. I want to be SUPER hydrated. Thought about setting my alarm to drink through the night but that seems a little mad.

So. Nothing left to do but like…run it I guess. This time tomorrow it will be over.

Wish me, and the 85,000 other runners who probably are treating this way less seriously than me, luck!

‘You are better than your last run’ and other lies I tell myself

City2Surf is around the corner. It is literally less than a week away and, well, I may be freaking out somewhat (I know, first world problems right). This time next week I will be feeling either the accomplishment of all my weeks of preparation….or looking for a different hobby.

I am actually quite worried that I have peaked too early. I followed my City2Surf training plan like a boss for the first 6 weeks and was feeling great, good pacing and lots of improvements. Then we went on our first snow trip. Slightly derailed but I got back on the training wagon after I had recovered. The we went to the snow again for a weekend of boarding (BTW I am going to completely gloss over my month-long blogging absence. Also, barefoot running post coming up shortly, not quite ready yet for that one) and when I tried the same run with one week difference…I tanked. Completely. I couldn’t even keep finish a flat 7 km course. On Sunday I did a 12km course including Bar Beach Hill (horrible hill in Newcastle similar to ‘heartbreak hill’)…couldn’t run up the whole thing. Normally I struggle yes, but I just keep on bloody running. This time, my calves were on fire and I had to stop and walk several times. It didn’t feel great.

OK, so it may seem as though I am heading towards a pity party and setting myself up with an excuse to not make my goal. But here’s the thing: running is hard. Also, more importantly (I find), it is unpredictable. There are so many factors that can influence your run (weather conditions, hydration, energy levels, time of day etc) but THE most important is your MENTAL STRENGTH, how FOCUSED you are. One weekend off running does not change your overall fitness, missing a few gym sessions doesn’t reduce your muscles to quivering weakness. Self sabotage on the other, can wreak havoc. If you think you are going to fail, its hard to convince yourself to keep on running. And it is a downward spiral, once I stop once, I am way WAY more likely to stop again (must be the instant gratification).

I know I am better than my last run, I know I can do City2Surf in sub 90 minutes and I KNOW that, no matter what, the feeling I will have from running City2Surf at all, let alone meeting my goal, will be amazing and worth whatever pain it costs.

Pre-Race Preparation

So. My plan for this week includes:

  1. Yoga. Lots of it.
  2. Eating healthy, nourishing foods including lots of carbs (half-hearted carb-loading…)
  3. Drinking A LOT of water
  4. Two gentle runs. Not timed.
  5. No exercise AT ALL from Friday on.
  6. Calm the hell down, it’s meant to be a freaking fun run!!

Today I have taken Melvin for a walk, a run, done a yoga session and a 60 minute pump class. I’m feeling good. Strong and focused. I’ll be tapering off my training now so I am as fit as I can be.

I just have to believe I have done enough. No, I KNOW I’ve done enough. Exhale.

Snow Hangover

Who dares, wins. It’s been a slow start to the Australian snow season this year and, when we made the decision to drive the 8 hours there, snow was literally thin on the ground. Ah well, we consoled ourselves, we’ll have a nice catch up with my cousin and family and get plastered on some schnapps. But the night we got there, it started to snow. Thredbo (where we stayed) got 60 cm of fresh snow and, although the whole mountain wasn’t open, we had some great runs.

I also got to put my new camera (a Contour video cam which attached to my helmet) through its paces. I had used it before when we first got it but not in a setting like this. It was so much fun to board in a big group (despite the extra waiting around time) and even more fun to watch back the videos at night of all our ‘stacks’ and ‘chews’ (agreed vernacular for falling over). The only problem with being the camera lady is that ALL of my stacks were captured…a bit of snow/sky/snow happening there.

Photo taken by my talented photographer cousin. You can see my little camera on the side of my helmet!

Photo taken by my talented photographer cousin. You can see my little camera on the side of my helmet!

I’ve started playing around a bit with the footage and put together a condensed version of a run to begin. I want to put together a stacks reel just showing everyone falling over because it is truly HILARIOUS. I missed some of the best ones though which is a shame. Can’t be everywhere at once unfortunately. Filming also challenged my boarding skills to be more controlled and follow behind people, but I did enjoy the times the camera was off and I could just hook down the mountain as fast as I could. Also tried some jumps this trip which were super fun, confidence builds slowly but once you have done a couple it definitely gets easier.

OK, confession time. My diet (as in the general collection of food I eat, not a restricted ‘I only eat rockmelon’ type diet) took a beating. We did some groceries before the snow and it was pure indulgence. Our basket included: chocolate, cheezels, salt and vinegar chips, iced coffee and more chocolate. I was almost trying to think of stuff I would never normally eat and just load it up. I was embarrassed to check out. It is also IMPOSSIBLE to eat healthy when on the slopes. Here is an example of the possible choices on the mountain:

Hot chips anyone?

Hot chips anyone?

So basically anything with chips (currently on my banned list). We ate soooo much crap and I really capitalised on the excuse to eat whatever I wanted. I have no doubt that I far overcompensated for the calories actually burned boarding. I even broke my McDonald’s ban since it was that or nothing on the way home from the snow. I got a side salad and was pathetically grateful for the fresh, crisp, juicy lettuce! When we got home I felt ill, almost nauseous for the whole next day and am only feeling better now after having gone for a run and doing some lovely relaxing stretch yoga (I hurt my neck a bit on one of my ‘chews’ so was nice to stretch out).

Next time, I am NOT going to do the same thing. I am going to remember how sick I felt after a weekend of poor food choices and, instead, try to fuel my boarding with healthy and nutritious meals. Most of the restaurants have soup so that is probably better than the nachos and meat piesI ate…. And I’ll probably have chocolate, I’m only human!

NEXT POST: Barefoot beginnings! My Vibrams toe-socks (FiveFinger Seeya) have arrived and I am in the process of breaking them in. First impressions coming soon…