In December 2017 my wife and I welcomed our beautiful baby girl into the world.
Becoming a mum has already taught me many things, but mostly perspective. That's something I take with me everywhere now. It's made me realise how fortunate we are to be able to provide for our daughter, keep her fed and safe whilst surrounding her with love and positivity.
It's taught me that running and in particular racing are not the be all and end all! Races and PBs can be chased another time, fitness comes and goes and comes back again if you want it to... This time right now is all about baby girl!
But what has running taught me about being a mum...?
1. PATIENCE - we've listened to this song twenty times already, but hey sure let's play it again. After all I've spent 4 hours in an ultra repeating the same motto "left, right, left, right" or "just keep moving forward". What's another 5 minutes of the Kiwi Hokey Tokey (awesome version of the hokey pokey if you're a kiwi or married to one)
2. ENDURANCE - ok so you're only going to stop crying if I pace out this exact 2m long figure of 8 in the dining room for the rest of eternity. Bring it baby! Monotony is my bitch!
3. ILL TIMED POOS - of course you've just shat all up your back when we're about to leave the house! But hey who cares when you got to go, you got to go! I've shat in some interesting places too, you just got to clean yourself up the best you can and carry on.
4. FLEXIBILITY - even the best laid plans can fall apart with a single projectile vomit. Whether it's baby in the car or me in a race it always pays to be able to adjust your mindset / goals / plans and shake it off (literally). It would be nice to have a training plan atm but the reality is one night it's 8 hours sleep the next it's 4 so you got to be realistic about what you can achieve the following day...
5. SLEEP DEPRIVATION SUCKS!! But when training for an ultra there's rarely a day you're not pretty bloody tired. And let's face it this time you've got a really awesome reason to be up at 4am - who doesn't like changing shitty nappies in the dark whilst half asleep and trying to figure out what exactly has made that wet patch on your PJs....
Babies also have the benefit of being awesome training partners... Nobody else (openly) giggles at me when I do my single leg deadlifts and squats! Also crab walks have the most soothing rhythm for bedtime. I'm expecting glutes and legs of steel thanks to my baby girl 😂
So lately I’ve been upping my strength training on recommendation from my physio and I joined a gym. Something I thought I’d never say. I hate gyms. Mostly because I’m a disaster in public places – highly likely to drop weights on somebody or whack them with a bar. It’s just going to happen. So I sought out the least “gym” gym that I could find – Peak Altitude Training*. And the bonus was it came with an altitude chamber! So two things I used to hate – gyms and running on treadmills are now creeping their way into my weekly workout routine.
* it is an awesomely scary F.I.T gym but quiet when classes aren't on and there's no beefcakes in nipple grazing singlets. My kind of space, me and my clumsiness alone!
I’ll do another post in a month or so to update you on how it’s all going but so far I’m enjoying the new challenges and the quiet gym space (outside of lunchtime classes).
However, the biggest issue I have is that the gym is a good 1.6k jog through the city from my work. That means a lot of annoying dodging of all sorts of obstacles every time I need to get to a session. As a dedicated lover of trails and someone who seeks out “city” runs that involve no more than 1 set of traffic lights for every 20k (my preferred run commute), this has been doing my head in.
In no particular order* my issues are…
1. All of the people (Sydney you suck!)
2. All of the smokers (as an ex-smoker I’m even more judgy on this!!)
3. All of the traffic lights (really do we need that many!)
4. People abruptly changing direction in front of you / just stopping with no warning (ARGH!)
5. People slowly drifting from the obvious path of direction they should be taking (usually on their phones)
6. Cars running red lights / blocking the crossings (hey that orange light means you stop and I go!)
7. Pollution from aforementioned cars and smokers dirtying up your pretty airways (especially after coming out of an altitude chamber!)
*if I’m honest they are all as equally annoying as each other
It’s almost worth looking for a new job over that side of town!!! ;-)
So you've just run an ultra now what...?
The first rule of recovery is you do not talk about recovery! Of course that’s not true, but you would be forgiven for thinking that it was. Especially when you’re still hobbling around post-ultra, whilst everyone else is posting runfies on Instagram in their event shirts and Strava is a burst with activities from people you can only assume have given their Suunto/Garmin to their dog/child/non-ultra-buggered spouse to clock up some impressive looking mileage.
The real first rule of recovery is listen to your body and your mind and not your FOMO! Last year after my first ultra I did a little of both. Having run a really tough 6FT, I actually felt surprisingly OK come the following weekend. So I went about business as usual, despite everything I’d read about recovery I seemed to think it did not apply and off I went for a light 10k run at Achilles training followed by 90 minutes of football complete with slide tackles. Then came the body breakdown. So what lead me to think I was so awesome I should be doing that crazy stuff one week after 6FT? Well first, like I said, the body felt OK after a week’s rest and I was eager to run. Secondly, I knew a number of strong runners who were backing up 6FT with Mount Solitary, UTA or numerous road marathons! So I assumed if they can do it then so can I. Yep I listened to the FOMO and went against my better judgement and broke myself.
This year it’s a similar story, in the week that has passed since UTA there’s been oodles of runfies and talk of big training runs and racing in the coming weeks. Me, myself and I have been quite fortunate – I got sick! I’m on day 8 of a nasty cold which saw me couch-ridden for 3 days following the race and I’m still coughing up all sorts of crap I shouldn’t be. My energy levels are super low and a cold snap just rolled in (a Sydney cold snap so you know like 7 degrees!). The combination has seen me pretty happy to lie in rather than lace up and I’ve been focussed on putting as much good food into my system as possible and sleeping as best I can between coughing fits.
Various resources (much more informed than me) recommend 1 week for every 10-15k of racing – so for UTA50 that’s around 4-5 weeks of recovery before getting seriously into training again. That’s what I’m aiming for. In an ideal world I would go for a couple of short recovery jogs this week and would have been doing a couple of yoga sessions. However at the moment any downward dog would require some serious mopping up of phlegm from the floor beneath me so I’m not going to put myself or anyone else through that. Instead I’m focussing on easy recovery walks with my Mrs (some perfect QT after the rigorous training schedule), rolling out my sore spots, having Epsom salt baths, massage and physio to address some of the super tight areas and enjoying a hell of a lot of Netflix action from the comforts of my couch!
Whilst this annoying cold has certainly killed my post UTA buzz (and my return to drinking after a 3 month hiatus pre-race! Yep that’s how you know I’m really sick, I actually tipped half a bottle of undrunk wine down the sink on my birthday no less!!!) it has helped me realise just how much we put our bodies through when doing an ultra. I annihilated my body and my immune system and it’s important to let it heal. Regardless of whether you got sick or not, your body just went through a heck of a lot of trauma whether you were out for 5 hours or 12 hours. You need to heal and rest and recover.
The only trouble with the recovery is finding another outlet for your energies. If like me you run to release your crazy or to suck in those mind bending endorphins, it’s really hard to recover and stay mentally ok. The best advice I can give is – go hug a sick person, it’ll give you a week of forced recovery. Nah don’t do that, it sucks! But do find some other way to get your fix, be it a spin class (that shit is crazy tough – you can’t see straight never mind think straight!), meditation or yoga, taking the dog for a walk, or meeting up with other suffering runners for a post-ultra walk and debrief. Replace your morning or afternoon run with some more relaxed fresh air time. Fill your lungs and remind yourself recovery is necessary but it’s not forever! Soon you’ll be back in the thick of it and wishing for that time you could lie in and not check Strava every hour to ensure your crown remains intact after that latest speed session.
A very fun (using that word loosely!) training session from the Squadrun program. Choose a Strava segment where you may be able to steal a crown or target a PB. Research the route, know where it starts and stops then buckle up and strap yourself in for the ride as you try to take out the top spot.
Well this morning I had set myself the goal of a local 2k pretty achievable crown. I would only have to run it at my 5k race pace and I should be able to take it out. I was pretty pumped to add a crown to my pretty pitiful Strava profile. But then I slept in…
So I set myself the much harder goal (and in my mind outright impossible) to take on a segment which is part of my regular lunch run route in one of the more popular running areas of Sydney; Pyrmont Wharves. Before today I was 112/268 women in the segment with a time of 12:59. In order to crack top 10 (my ambitious goal set that morning) I would have to knock 2m22s off of a 2.4k segment... Now that’s a minute a kilometre quicker give or take.
I started with a gentle warm up to wake the legs up and was soon filled with doubt as I looked at my pace and it was only around 5:40/km but felt in my mind a lot quicker. Tired legs much! But I persevered and ran most of the segment in reverse, looking for any obstacles and envisaging myself coming back along at lightning speed. I stopped for a drink or water and looped back around to the start of the segment. I walked for a little to reduce my heart rate, slipped into my big girl pants, buckled up and let loose. I pushed the pace hard from the get go, knowing I’d need to be running sub 4:20/kms to get into the top 10. Before this my fastest 1k was 4:11 which was in a 1k sprint session with full recovery. I knew it was going to be tough work. But I kept reminding myself it was only 10-11mins of real hard work and anything is possible for 10 minutes. Each wharf side I faced I just focussed on getting to the end without dropping my pace. There was one small hill that I pumped my arms up and focussed on pushing hard knowing there was a small downhill the other side to recover marginally.
I passed two work colleagues that I usually run with who both gave me extremely concerned (and quizzical) looks as they passed in the opposite direction with a grunt and a head nod from me – no smiles from me today boys! I gave it everything I had and crossed the segment “line” completely spent. I kept the watch going to see how quickly my heart rate would fall below and to prove it was really tough!
I walked the 1k back to work to cool down and then waited anxiously in the changing room for my watch to sync to Strava… I was like a kid at Xmas, I had no idea what it would show, I knew I’d been roughly on pace for top10 but it’s hard on the wharves to know as the pace can jump around a little in the middle. Finally it loaded to reveal that I had actually, somehow, God only knows, that I actually managed to (just) take out the crown ? in 10:02.
I literally jumped for joy in the changing room. Thankfully nobody else was in there. I honestly couldn’t believe that I had taken out the crown on such a challenging route. Moving from number 112 to number 1!!!
Whilst I hated every second of the 2.4k I'm so bloody stoked to have that crown!!! No doubt I’ll lose that crown sooner rather than later given the popularity of the route and the fact I stole it from an insanely strong runner – she did the previous record in 10:05 whilst on a 30k long run with a heart rate of 140 compared to my 192bpm! What a legend. It’s amazing to see runners that strong when I can barely sustain the pace for 2.4k never mind 30k. But for now I shall sit happily on my throne beaming with pride in accomplishing something that this morning I genuinely thought was impossible.
A massive thanks to my Squadrun coaches for a program that continues to make me a stronger runner and is enjoyable and challenging and filled with the highs (and lows) that make running so addictive!
If you want to become an awesome Squaddie check out Squad.Run for more information
Having just about shaken off my early Xmas present of a nasty cold, I was keen to hit the trails with the Mrs to test out a new route (especially since I was too sick to go on my planned Xmas Eve trail run and had to cancel). So to say I was disappointed in the morning when said Mrs was too tired (a result of my spluttering through the night) to hit the trails was an understatement – I was gutted! My heart and head was set on doing the trails. Yep sure I could have headed out and gone myself but when trying a new route I was a little apprehensive and also I’m not a huge fan of running solo on the trails for various reasons (snakes, spiders, falling over, knife wielding lunatics, an over active imagination, etc. etc.)
Unsure of what to do instead I suited and booted and decided just to get out there. I couldn’t face doing the usual bay run – it’s 7km of flat pathway, completely open to the elements and probably the furthest you could get from trail without running on a track or a treadmill… So I decided to try and seek out more a challenge and a change in scenery around the local area. From the second k in, it was torture! I wasn’t running particularly fast (average pace came out at 5:45/km) and it wasn’t ridiculously hot but I was obviously still feeling the impact of the cold (and a light stair session I did the day prior). I was struggling to find a rhythm I was happy was and to be honest I just really wanted to be out on the trails battling my way through spiders webs rather than dog leashes!
I had set out to do 10k and by 3k I was so over it. Instead of chucking in the towel though I focussed on what I’m training for, UTA50 in May. I reminded myself that there would be times where I was over it and struggling in the race and I forced myself to focus on embracing my distain for today’s run. I even forced myself to a take a route that leads to my house but veered off at the last minute to clock the remaining 2k of my run – seriously pushing the self-restraint and resolve there! The last 1.5k dragged by, every time I checked my watch I was only 100m closer to the 10k target.
But perseverance and determination paid off and I got through it. Fair enough it was only a 10k run and not a 30k training effort but sometimes those runs which we take for granted and chalk as being so “runnable” turn out to be the ones that bite us on the ass.
When trying to become a better ultra-runner you have to take all the lessons thrown at you and aim for an A+.
This weekend we're on the Gold Coast visiting my father in law and on a stinking hot morning we got up early to drive him to work so we could take the car to Springbrook National Park and get some trail action in.
Having spent the last 4-5 weeks since Tarawera largely restocking my cookie jar, I'm starting to get back into the swing of things with my running. So I was super happy when the Mrs suggested we look up some local trails. Thinking it was all beaches on the GC had me resigned to road running (fuck running on the sand, I'm not that recovered yet!!) But I was very excited to find out there a whole heap of awesome trails within a half hour drive of where we'd be.
We decided on the Purling Brook circuit with extension out to Little Nerang Creek via Warringa Pool. Plotting it on Movescount said it would sound 8.5k with c600m gain. So a pretty decent little jaunt for us to do together.
We did the loop counterclockwise so first checked out the Purling Brook Falls lookout. Looking down we realised it was quite a way down to the bottom and not knowing the area I wasn't 100% sure but figured it would be highly likely we'd end up at the bottom...
...and sure enough we started a pretty steady decent on the trails that took us down to the swing bridge in the above photo.
The trails are nice single track and very runnable though a touch trickier than they look. Lots of leaves covered the trail and under them were tree roots and stones that were perfect ankle rolling material. We both let out a number of yelps as we tweaked our ankles but luckily we run trails enough to have pretty resilient ankles.
The trail out to Warringa Pool is much of the same, a beautiful single tracks that winds its way down to the water. We had considered stopping at Warringa Pool for a swim but decided against and continued in to Little Nerang Creek along the Great Hinterland Walk. At the creek we took a breather before starting the climb back out to the start.
We were treated to an encounter with a decent sized Goanna coming along the track sandwiched between us and another group of walkers. Luckily the walkers told us to stand still and let it pass as apparently they can chase you if you freak them out and we've ran enough for now hey!
Soon you climb out back to another couple of waterfall lookouts and back to the car park.
This is a great loop and I hope to return and start at Apple Tree Park next time which is about 12.5k but quite a bit more elevation.
For some great trail inspo for the Gold Coast check out http://www.juddadventures.com.au/trail-guides/#gold-coast
Waking up for my run this morning it was already 21 degrees and having planned to attack some pace in a fartlek session I knew it was going to get messy out there as the sun came up fully. So for the first time ever I decided to run in a crop top / sports bra.
Now full disclosure I'm around 62kg and 172cm so by no means do I consider myself as "fat" in any way. But I've always been reluctant to get my 1-pack out on a run... In fact I used to judge others who did. Thinking that we all had to look like an elite sprinter or athlete before we dared to bare.
But that was before I started doing fartlek sessions in the bloody hot Australian sun!! And before I realised that being skinny and having a six pack does not make a runner and after having a body fat scan realising I'm pretty lean with no hidden skinny fat. So why not get my belly out if it'll stop me from overheating!
So what did I learn...
1. You don't care if people are looking and judging you when you're smashing out 4:30m/ks and trying not to vomit
2. The littlest breeze on a clammy belly is immensely satisfying - it's like switching the air-con on!
3. People probably are not thinking what you think they're thinking and if they are being negative or perverse then they're the one with the problem not you with your nicely aired belly! Fuck them and their sweaty bellies!
Most importantly though, don't judge others for what they choose to wear or what they look like when they're out for a run. No doubt they've judged themselves enough in life.
For more body positivity inspiration check out Kelly Roberts and her #sportsbrasquad posts on Insta
Oomph it's been hot and humid in Sydney lately. Tonight was no exception, 27 degrees and 85% humidity at 6pm.
I had planned to get out at lunch for a run but an emergency came up with a mate that required a shoulder some burgers and a glass of wine. I'm a good friend 😝
Knowing it would be harder to get motivated once I was home and near the fridge, I donned my running gear for the bus ride home and hit the bay run as soon as I was home.
It was one of those runs that's just tough from the outset. I really had to push hard just to get under 5:30ks by half way round I thought my arms were going to fall off. Yes arms not legs! Strangely the legs were ok but the arms and upper body felt three times their weight. It was frustrating and irritating me as was the hot humid air I was sucking in. But sucking in and up I did and got the 8k loop from home done in a decent time.
Catching my breath in the back yard sweet was pouring off of me like I'd just come out a sauna. Bonus is I'm pretty sure that glass of wine has been sweated put my system so there's definitely room for another one with dinner!!
The mind is powerful thing hey… Since TW50 almost three weeks ago I’ve deliberately been taking it easy with only a couple of 5k slow runs and focussing on easy bike commutes and yoga. On all of my runs though I’ve really been feeling the fatigue - to be expected after any 50k run and especially your first. The heavy legs weighed heavy on my spirits and made me question whether I’d possibly fallen a little out of love with running. Turns out it was just the fatigue messing with my head!
I went for my first solo run this morning and was able to push the pace again and it felt really good. And so the love affair with running continues....
Though I’m very conscious of continuing to take it easy for another few weeks – I’ve heard of 1 week recovery for every 10k raced?
Focussing instead on my form and physio to address my glute/hamstring/knee issues that made me cry at TW. But just goes to show that you need to listen to your body! If you find yourself hating on the running maybe you need to dial it back a bit for a week and allow your body (and mind) to recover.