My Romance With Running

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Whellington takes on Whanganui

42 minutes and 23 seconds. That is how long my last race took me to run, and is how long I will spend writing this blog.

I haven’t been blogging much lately because of baby reasons and being a bit of a perfectionist, most things I write never even make it past the drafts folder.

I read a blog post this week on doing things badly, so I thought I’d make a start and see if I can write a quick race report within the time it took me to run my last race. No pressure on it being a perfectly crafted piece of writing, no expectation that it be witty or contain some sort of wise life lesson. Just a race report.

I went along to the Whanganui Three Bridges marathon last weekend. My old coach Kevin Ross moved to Whanganui a few years ago, so it was a good excuse to go and catch up over a large flat white and chat about running with someone who has been around the track in under 60 seconds four consecutive times.

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Whanganui Bridge #1

As is becoming tradition, Elliot recognised that I was prepping to do a race so woke up every hour the night before. Good on ya mate. Pretending that the lack of sleep wasn’t an issue, we were all up for the day at 6am and on the road fully caffeinated by 6.30 to drive from Wellington to Whanganui.

It was already heating up by the time we got there, I’d picked a bright yellow and blue outfit to match the sunny conditions and was feeling pretty confident about my run.

The race HQ was at the boat club, a cool old building with volunteers flitting up and down the rickety wooden stairs (800 volunteers in total I am told for the day!) eating pink-iced morning tea cakes and party pies and giving people directions.

The race packs were in a reusable bag from Pak’n Save which I appreciated because unlike most Stuff commenters I am not hoarding plastic bags to ‘re-use’ as a bin liner and moaning about how awful my life will be when I have to use paper as a bin liner, or god forbid, wipe the bin clean. The race packs also contained PICS PEANUT BUTTER!!! Wellington’s Round The Bays should take note.

I was nervous going in to this race, 10km is a long way to run if you are planning on running hard, and I was. I am still ‘only’ running 3-4 times a week, and I get a bit scared about running too far or too hard because I think my pelvis will split in half or something. I’m not kidding. The fear of my insides falling out is real and I think I’ve just been lucky so far to have encountered no problems post-baby.

The Chan with a plan told me to go out easy at 4.10 pace for around 3km, then pick it up as I went on and finish hard. I was in agreement as I didn’t care too much about the outcome of the race, and it would be a good opportunity to try a new tactic and play around with how I paced things.

I warmed up with one of Wellington’s greatest assets Michelle van looy, club captain of Olympic Harriers, amazing runner, mum, baker and rock climber and all round awesome lady. I planned to start off with her then get faster, but I’m just a bit crap at sticking to the plan.

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Image from NZ Herald

Lining up on the start line, I could see that people hadn’t really seeded themselves appropriately. There were 10km walkers standing in the second row ahead of runners, people wearing headphones standing up front, me standing nearby, judging their running ability by which shade of hot pink the ginormous phone case in their hand is. And when have I ever been wrong?

Someone needs to write the Velominati for running and rule #35 is to not run a race with a pink glitter filled iphone case in your hand, and if you do, hide it from view by starting at the back. Also Rule #1, shorts should be short, eye-wateringly bordering on obscene short. Death to your inner thighs if you don’t use chamois cream kind of short.

There are people who run to complete an event, and there are people who run to compete. I am firmly in the latter category and it’s not because I want to win the race, it’s because I like to push myself. Winning is just a bonus!

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Image by Jonesys’s Photography

The start gun went and I was in a small pack of women who had set off at around 3.30 pace. This was too fast for me, so I hung back a little, knowing full well that I was going to reel them in very shortly and beat them by several minutes by the time we finished. This isn’t arrogance, it is trusting in yourself and your abilities, it’s having race experience and it’s knowing by the rasping breath of your competitors that they have gone out just a touch too hard.

I ticked off the first 3km in around 3.57 minutes per km which is a lot faster than I had planned to go, but I was feeling comfortable and in a good rhythm so I just let it go. BB and Elliot were on the course, cheering for me and looking at trees.

How good are trees?

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Food source waving to the baby

It was great to see Elliot’s fat wee face peering out of the pram and looking for me when she heard my voice as I ran past.

After 6km I tried to go back to my original race plan and picked up the pace, running around 3.50. This lasted for a very hot and sticky 2km before I had to cross bridge number two. The steep incline really took it out of my legs and I struggled to get my rhythm back and slowed right down.

Soon after the bridge was an aid station, around 8km in and I was so parched. I had a bit of an internal battle with my eco- conscious self vs my fatigued race self.

Do I drink water from a disposable cup? How can I comment about single use plastic bags if I use that cup? But I am SO THIRSTY! Could I just drink straight from a tap? Do I really need water, it’s only 10km. Water will make you run faster!

I caved and grabbed a (paper not plastic) cup of water, choking on it and getting perhaps one sip inside my mouth. My arms tensed up, my pace slowed even more, what a disaster for my race and for the environment.

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The final 500m with views of Whanganui River

Maybe it’s a habit picked up from constantly narrating my daily life to an audience of one beefy little squealing baby, but I said out loud to myself, ‘Come on Amanda, you can do this. Push harder!’

So I pushed a little harder. I pushed aside that little voice that told me I was tired, that I was slow, and that I needed to stop. I told myself I could do it, I wasn’t that tired (jokes on you Elliot I don’t need sleep) and I ran as hard as I could.

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10km was enough what is this awful extra 550m?!

I ran over the final bridge, along the board walk, and down the road to the finishing chute where I crossed the line in 42.23 for the quarter marathon. See my run on Strava here.

I managed to go through 10km in 39.55, which is the 4th fastest time I’ve run for 10km. My PB is 39.08 so I am not far off reaching that again. It was so stinkin’ hot, I had a sweat patch that made me question the strength of my pelvic floor. Give me some decent sleep, a course with no tight turns or hills, some bad ass ladies to run with and some cooler weather and I reckon I can get closer to my PB.

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I learned a bit about my pacing during this race, perhaps I should have stuck to the same pace and not tried to speed up so early on, I may have felt better and finished stronger. It was great to find out what happens changing my pace within a race and trying to go outside my comfort zone early on.

A highlight of this event was seeing so many people I knew at the finish line. My great Aunty Margie, who is 70 and still walking with her Harriers group, and doing ocean swims. She has amazing legs! My friends Sophie and Sierra, both mums who make fitness a part of life and have a very cute support crew waiting for after the race. Michelle and other harriers runners from Scottish and WHAC, cheering for me while I ran.

Whanganui is not too far from Wellington so this is a great race to support if you live in the capital, and there is barely any wind!

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Sierra, Sophie and I post race

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You’ll never be any good

The fun part of racing is the race. But what happens when you find yourself alone in the field? It stops being a race against the competition and becomes a battle with yourself.

It’s just a few minutes in to the event and you’ve slipped to a place in the field on your own, unable to keep up with anyone ahead as they speed away, racing hard with each other and leaving you in solitude.

Plodding away alone at the back, with nobody to chase and race, you start wondering what the point is, you wonder why you’re here, and that negative little voice starts to get louder and louder. This is pointless, what are you going to prove? You’re going to get lapped if you don’t hurry up!

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#ForeverAlone Photo by James Kuegler

I’ve had races that were physically tough, and mentally tough when I couldn’t hold the pace. But this one was a race that I almost talked myself out of finishing.

You don’t deserve to be here, you’re only here by default, because nobody else wanted to come. You’re embarrassing yourself, you’re not even close to being in the same league as these women, and you’ll never, ever be as good as them. This isn’t even a race for you! Tell me again, why are you here?

Why the fuck can’t you keep up? Because they have been running for longer than you. Because they train harder than you. Because they want it more than you. Because they have more talent. Because they are smart.

My loneliness was killing me

The loneliness of the solo race was killing me

Hey, you’re thinking like a loser, winners don’t have this attitude! Do you really think anyone else running or watching gives a shit about how fast you run? Do you think by not believing in yourself that you will get very far? Would that bad attitude have got you to the start line? For fucks sake, just get going. Don’t be a bitch, don’t think about pulling out. Leave your ego in the mud over there and keep running.

Keep moving your legs, keep pumping your arms, and think about why you’re here.

You’re here because you love running, because you love what it gives back to you. You’re here because you love the feeling of getting fitter and faster. You’re here because even though you knew you would be a lot slower than the ‘good’ runners, you still wanted to give it a go, to challenge yourself. You love the training, you love those free flowing hills, the ease at which you fly down the other side after grinding all the way up. You love that feeling, and that feeling didn’t come without a lot of hard work.

You’ve earned your right to be here, you’ve proved that you have potential. You should feel proud, you’re up against people that are a lot faster and stronger than you, and one day you might be running at their pace. Even if you aren’t going to pass anyone on course unless they pass out or break their leg, you’ve passed a lot of obstacles on your way to getting here. Tell yourself, you’re here because you love it.

I. Love. It. So. Much.

I. Love. It. So. Much.

Mindset in your training, and in your racing is important. It’s the difference between you having a good time or a bad time. It’s the difference between you failing and going home, or failing then getting back up again to do it tomorrow.

It helps to try and look at things from someone else’s perspective. I’ve never finished a race and thought, ‘Ha! Look at all those idiots running slower than I am, why did they bother to show up?’ Nobody thinks like that, but somehow you’re worried that they do!

When you’re having an rough patch in the middle of a race, a bit of positive self talk and a few encouraging words from friends can really turn things around. I’m always grateful for people who come to watch races, if you’re a spectator you’ve probably turned someone’s day around just by saying a few words.

Lap one Bye friends! Catch you later in the race!

Lap 1.5 Not fucking likely, buh bye.

Lap two Three laps to go. Not quite half way, just get to the end of the lap and you can pull out.

Lap three About 500m in the cheer squad of Wellington runners is on the strait and they are cheering for you. Come on Amanda, give us a grin! Are you laughing or crying? Go go go!

Crying. Definitely crying.

Crying. Definitely crying.

Lap four Paul is on the bend with his camera, click click click Great work Amanda!

Lap five The final lap. James is near the muddy straight, warming up for his own race, ‘Good job Amanda, push it ’till the end’

Your team mates are at the finish line ‘Nice one! I think we got a team medal!’

Your adoring family are waiting in the stands ‘We saw you do this massive snot rocket as you came past the grandstand. You’re disgusting. Great run.’

I wish I had something profound to write at this point but I don’t, so I will cheat by finishing with something somebody else wrote. After my race I got this email, I didn’t realise anyone knew how felt, thank you Paul Sharp.

Like you, I ran in the NZ XC champs yesterday. I watched the first 15 minutes of the Senior Women’s 10K and saw you complete two laps before we headed to the airport. Never easy, I thought, running solo in a race. But one man’s poison is another woman’s meat, and your My Romance with Running blog speaks of a human being and a runner with guts, resilience and spirit, and suggests that you simply just got on with it. You’re a star.


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Wellington Road Champs

The course is crap! It sucks! Hilly, out and back out and back, just a 2km loop. IN WAINUI! They have like, NO decent cafes in Wainui.

The Wellington Road running champs are held on a back road in the back of the back of nowhere every year in mid-August. This is an Athletics NZ race between the local clubs, and unlike Round The Bays or the Wellington Marathon this 10km race is small but it is fierce and the competition is a lot tougher.

Having just spent a month on holiday, then a few weeks just not training properly I had low expectations for this race. I bought myself a very large donut from Flight Coffee on my way out to Wainui and  I promised myself that if I came in the top five that I could eat the donut. It was almost the size of my hand, iced with chocolate on one side and icing on the other. It smelled good, it looked good, and I needed to earn it.

I warmed up for the race, realised I’d forgotten my timing chip among other things so rectified that and jogged over to the start line, putting myself next to Michelle Van Looy who had hickies all over her back, it was her anniversary she explained (It was needling :P).

The race started and Nicole Mitchell went off to run a solo race while seven or eight of us formed a little pod of 40-41 minute dolphins and chased and paced and ‘eeeeahahahehed’ each other up and down the course. The first kilometre is slightly uphill, then you go back down, so it’s a good 15 seconds difference in each lap for most people.

Photo bought to you by Sharon Wray, legs bought to you by Scottish Harriers

Photo bought to you by Sharon Wray, legs bought to you by Scottish Harriers

It’s a great course in that you can see exactly what place you are and wave at the leading ladies as you try not to get lapped by them. You can see who is strong on the up and down hill sections and bank this to use in the final lap. It’s also great for spectators who yell little bits of advice as you come past ‘Stay on them, speed up, don’t let her go’.

The dolphins started to drift apart around 6km in and I, being a social dolphin, stayed with the little pack because there is safety in numbers and I always worry about blowing up and not being able to finish. 1500m from the end I thought to myself, ‘This is a race Amanda, why are you being conservative, just race it!’ So I ran a little bit harder, managed to get ahead of the pod and move up four or so placings, I locked eyes on Lindsay who is the least donut-looking person I know but in that moment she became the target, the goal, the delicious baked good with two kinds of glazed icing rolling down the road in front of me. I managed to come in to finish in 5th place by only one second. The donut was mine.

Andrea thinks I’m a donut too

I improved my time ever so slightly from my last 10km race and ran 40.49 so panted and stumbled around the finish line telling anyone who would listen, limping slightly, and grinning about the baking I was going to eat. Full results are here!

Ayesha and Me

We stayed on to watch the men’s race, but they ran too fast for me to know what was going on or who was who except at the end when I thought Nick Horspool was smiling cheerfully as he went down the finishing chute to take the win. When I look back at the photos it was a bit of an Anthony Hopkins in the Shining smile rather than a happy smile. This tells me that we all do look super atheltic and awesome and happy when we run (in real life) and it’s just the photos that make everyone look murderous.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Donut
  • 14 second PB!
  • Battle scar
  • I BEAT CARL
  • Going to nationals this weekend

    How will I colour coordinate stained Nikes? 😭

    *If I had come sixth I would have still eaten the donut but would have salted it with my tears before consuming.


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Wellington Marathon 10km 2015

Last Sunday was the 30th Annual Wellington Marathon. The course follows the waterfront and starts and ends at Westpac Stadium (UP A RAMP!).

I went to the start line early so I could see my friend and training buddy Ayesha set out for the half marathon, see the short video above for my awkward squeaky cheer.

For my own race I had a goal of sub 40 minutes, it didn’t seem unrealistic but it was a lot faster than my previous personal best of 42.10.

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Pre-race Kewpie pose

I lined up at the start back a few rows and sized up the competition. You can never tell how fast people are when you’re just standing there, skinny people might just be skinny and not fast, you really have to know someone to pick their ability. I assumed (safely, very safely, did I mention I made a massive correct assumptive assumption) that the two girls standing stiffly at the front of the start line wearing enormous Beats by Dre headphones and adjusting their ipod arm bands would not be in front of me after the gun went. Several nipple-high kids were also lined up across front waiting for their 200 metres of glory. Had I not been feeling so chipper I would have willed them to be trampled; kids on the start line are a hazard.

I thought that I should try to stick with Gabby (lol Amanda, lol) but changed that plan after about 400m and just ran. The first 2km were a bit too fast at 3.50 pace then I struggled to hit 4 minutes after that. I ran with Haleigh until the 5km mark where she left me behind to run in to second place. I was in fourth which is good by my standards so just tried to keep going fast enough that I wasn’t losing places or looking unco in front of the GIANT SCREEN that played a live feed of the runners. Was this really necessary in the final 1500m? I looked horrific. I ended up passing the colour-coordinated Alice (who will be an awesome training partner this summer) and coming home third in 41.03. Full results of the race here.

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Hi my name is legs

What I learned from this race;

  • When short shorts get too lose they disappear in to your crack
  • Less clothing is more when you are running shorter distances
  • Wind can make or break your time
  • Ruby Muir is a tank
  • Seeing your friend cheer for you makes you go so much faster, cheers Larna, Sophie, Ben and Karin
  • I WILL NEVER BE SATISFIED WITH MY TIME!

I have been training pretty solidly since March when I was allowed to run again, and have just got out of the ‘building’ phase and started training that includes more speed work. I don’t think I had done enough to be able to pace myself through a good 10km race. It’s a lot different to running a half marathon where you can relax enough in to it to cruise along and talk, and not like a 5km when your lungs explode the whole way. It’s somewhere in the middle and I’m not use to it at all!

There is a huge difference between a 4.15 pace and a 4 minute pace. The closer you get to that threshold the harder you have to work for every second. When the wind is against you that extra 5 seconds per km pushing you back has a big impact.

I’m off to Vietnam for a month and will try to stay fit there so I can get closer to 40 in the Wellington Road Champs in August. I forsee a lot of treadmills or midnight runs happening in the next month.

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Scottish team mate Dorota