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?


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 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.

Comparison the Dea(r)th of Confidence

On Saturday I beat my all time best 5 km run time by 20 seconds and achieved a goal I had been working towards for over a year: run 5 km in under 30 minutes (my parkrun time this week was 29 minutes and 44 seconds). I have done it once previously on a different course (29 minutes 58 seconds) but almost died in the process and had a small vommi at the finish line. That was in April and I had been unable to match this time, until now.

The funny thing is, while I was running it on Saturday, I was thinking to myself how crap I was at running and I didn’t know why I kept trying. People kept overtaking me and my friend, who I introduced to parkrun and who was doing his first ever 5 km, had outstripped me in the first km.

I hadn’t been watching my pace very closely to begin, only for the last 2 or so km and thought I was way over the 30 minute mark. It wasn’t until I rounded the last turn, saw the finish line and saw I was at 28 minutes that I realised I was going to make it in under 30 minutes.

How did it manage to surprise me so greatly? The run hurt, yes, I was definitely pushing it. My new way of thinking is ‘yes, this hurts. But you know what, if you slow down it’s not going to hurt less, you will just finish with a worse time. So just keep going and you won’t feel any worse.’  It works quite well, I think the interval running I am doing is helping there.

So why did I believe I was doing so badly? My mistake, I believe, was to compare myself with other people.

I compared myself to my friend, who finished in 25 minutes, and who is athletic. He rides, does all sorts of extreme sports and is generally an athletic person (he once paddle boarded for over 12 hours straight just because he wanted to know if he could).

I compared myself to my husband. The day before I did parkrun my husband did a 14 km run ‘just to make sure’ he would be able to run City2Surf. My goal for City2Surf is to scrape through under 90 minutes after a relatively intense 10 week training program. He did the same distance, with absolutely zero preparation, in 80 minutes. I was both impressed and depressed by this.

I’m not sure what the moral of this story is. Would I have done a faster time if I had felt more confident and secure in my running capabilities? Or was comparing myself to faster runners motivating me to try a little harder and make me push a little bit faster?

I think I need to just be comfortable with the fact that, no, I am not an ‘athletic’ person. Every single physical activity I have ever done or tried I have had to work HARD for and have been CRAP at to begin. Sweat, pain and often humiliation (snowboarding in particular I could tell you some stories) occur whenever I try something physically demanding.

That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try, or push myself or be proud of my achievements.

I am still a runner and no one, no matter how fast they run, can take that away from me.

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….


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

22 km later – ‘Oh, hello blisters’

This week I have put my ‘City2Surf in sub 90 minutes’ plan into action and have managed to run 22 km over the course of the week. It’s been great and I have run in so many different places and circumstances I possibly would not have without my City2Surf goal motivating me. I TOTALLY love running (not ironic). On that note, I am developing killer blisters and calluses which I am strangely proud of.

Oh, hello blisters

Oh, hello blisters

My running week started with a tour of my neighbourhood, 9 km in 60 minutes. It was a blustery, cold day and the sun was just setting. I did several hills and ended up the top of a particularly nice view. I made the decision also not to listen to music but to just take everything in. It was a good decision, I enjoyed being alone with my thoughts for the time of the run. Plus it is also safer when running on roads. From now on I will only listen to music when not running on/around roads!

I did a couple short treadmill runs (hill and Fartlek – Fartlek, tehee) of 1.5 km each. The first was following a spin class which bloody hurt while the second was before a Body Pump class which ALSO bloody hurt. The squat track hit me particularly hard.

On Wednesday night I decided instead of hitting the tready I would go for a run in a lit, high traffic zone on the Newcastle foreshore. It was a really peaceful night and Melvin enjoyed the outing immensely. Again, I didn’t listen to music so I could enjoy the peace of the evening. I also got my second fastest 5 km run time of 30 minutes and 30 seconds. Oh so close to the 30 minutes mark!

Saturday morning dawned raining and very dark. But that was not going to stop me, Newy parkrun was celebrating its 1st birthday and I HAD to be there to support them.

Overlooking the Newy parkrun course. Looks pretty ominous...

Overlooking the Newy parkrun course. Looks pretty ominous…

It was a great decision, yes it rained (hard), we got soaked AND covered in mud (part of the track is trail, not concrete)… but Melvin and I had great fun meeting up with some friends and partaking in the festive feel of the day. Just under 800 people turned out which, for a completely voluntary event, is pretty amazing. My hat is off to them! I did not get anywhere near my PB, we started pretty far back and basically walked the first 2-3 minutes of the race because of the crowd, but never mind – so not the point! There was a great community atmosphere to the event, so many different ages and abilities but everyone with big grins on their faces.

That brings me to today! I did a 7.5 km run today but didn’t include it in my weeks running total as technically my week starts on Sunday.

I met my sister at the dog beach for our pups to have a run around before heading off on the run (Melvin is currently passed out beside me on the couch, spoilt boyo, he is exhausted after the beach AND a run!).

Horseshoe Beach with my boy (coal ship coming in)

Horseshoe Beach with my boy (coal ship coming in)


Can you spot Melvin??

It was such a lovely afternoon, very mild with hardly any wind. On my run the sunset was so incredibly beautiful I actually almost cried. I’m 100% serious. The light was so soft and the sky lit up with soft pink, purple and yellow pastels with shots of brilliant orange on a background of slowly evolving blue. I decided to include Newcastle beach in my run as well as Nobbys and Horseshoe (apologies to non-Novocastrians who have no idea where these places are. Yes, there is a beach called Nobbys) and enjoyed changing up my route on the fly. I listened to the Triple J Hottest 100 of the last 20 years softly while running (I like to be able to hear the crashing waves) and ‘The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony’ came on as I was running along Newcastle Beach.

Life is just so great sometimes.

I’m looking forward to another week of running. I may need to invest in some band-aids.