My Romance With Running

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Takahe to Akaroa – NZRR 2018

This year National Road Relays was run from Sign of the Takahe to Akaroa, 76 kilometres over the hills of Christchurch with stunning views that nobody ever remembers seeing because they are running too hard.

From the moment the team lists came out from Athletics Canterbury, the messenger chat tones started to ding with predictions of who would come out the victors. Teams would change with people pulling out due to injuries, but the respect the Scottish ladies have for captain Lindsay Barwick meant that nobody DARED to get injured (or not fly all the way to Dunners at 8.30 on Friday night then drive to Christchurch and arrive at 3am to make the start line), and so the Scottish teams remained perfectly intact.

UC had the strongest line up featuring Olympian Angie Petty, several national medalists, world mountain runner Sabrina Grogan, that Barwick-sized Scottish lass that smashed the NI XC course, ex-Scottish member Ariana Harper, and the legendary Fiona Crombie who holds the women’s course records for both lap 3 AND 5.

Bays Athletics were down two entire teams after a win in 2017, and their B team taking a solid 5th. They were missing a few key members with Annika Pfitzinger in the US, and Lydia O’Donnell and Esther Keown busy elsewhere racing and promoting Anchor Protein+ which unlike most flavoured milk drinks, contains no added sugar. After a bit of digging around the ANZ rankings site it was clear that they still had the depth to place, but sadly it was looking like this year’s Instagram boomerangs would not be from the very top of the podium.

To Scottish’s delight the Hamilton Hawks had lost Nicole Mitchell, but definitely had the best cartoonist in the field with Dawn Tuffery. Alaina Brent had finally broken ties with WHAC to strengthen the Hawks line up, but some of their top performers from 2017 were missing.

The North Canterbury team would take way too much admin to stalk results for so it was assumed that they would not be an immediate threat to the podium, and they flew under the radar/ thousand foot long irrigator like tumbleweeds with really nice drought-coloured hair.

Scottish’s arch rivals WHAC have a solid line up every year, and this year was no exception. Their team included new seniors Maiya Christini and Kelsey Foreman, who make other seniors look forward to their 35th birthday. They had recently lost Mel Black to injury, Alice Wilson to the Middle East, and with Sarah Drought slowed down by about 4% heading in to her third trimester, would they still have the edge to make the podium?

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WHaction shot of poster girl Letha-l Whitham showing why you should always be weary of WHAC

Scottish had the strongest A team in recent history and looked to be in with a medal chance for silver or bronze. The years of the ‘A’ team being last by twenty full minutes were gone. Captain Lindsay Barwick (who is not quiet) had been quietly working away all year to form a team. It included NZ Master’s record holder Tina Faulkner, national 10,000 medallist Ayesha Shafi, trail specialist that will also beat you on any other surface Ruby Muir, and the perfectly tanned Nicole Mitchell who happened to not be in Bali that weekend.

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The Scottish SW A Team ❤

But the real competition would be at the back of the field for 7th and 8th. Our neighbours to the north, Olympic Harriers were rumoured to be Riceman-ing together a team, and special dispensation had been obtained to run some junior women in the senior grade. A club plagued with mutli-sporters they had convinced Grace Seely to ditch the mountain bike and Jo Doherty to take a trip to Christchurch to show the rest of the field what your upper body can look like if you care to use it.

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The team for the B-babez to B-eat, Olympic Harriers

As the only person who had run Takahe to Akaroa before, I was bestowed the honour of B team captain. I quickly set up a group chat with my team and somewhat less painfully than the other birth I’d witnessed this year, the B-Babez were born.

A coffee roaster, a self-described choreographer, a vegan, a baby. On paper the team did not look like a threat to any race records, but you don’t need to be fast to be legendary.

Emma Bassett gave us the early lead over Olympic on lap one, 4km steady uphill then a rapid descent with undulations to finish this 9.6km lap. The hint of nervousness I detected the night before the race disappeared as she pounded down the hill, hooning through the changeover while pointing at things to feign confusion.

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DEAD LEGS – FRESH PEGS

Olympic had harnessed the hurricane that is Deb Lynch for lap two- a long 10.4km with a large climb to Gebbies Valley. Every Scottish team has an import and thankfully we had the budget this year to ship Clare McKinlay across from the UK for lap two. Head to head with Deb on this lap, the triathlete’s strength gave Olympic the lead heading in to lap 3.

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Danielle Trewoon, amping after 80 minutes in a confined van shaking with drum and bass was fully committed to getting back to her stash of VB as fast as possible, and ran close to a PB on the flat 10km lap 3. Grabbing the lead back from Olympic this gave Jaime Vessiot a two minute head start heading in to lap 4.

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Ten points if you guess who has just finished their lap

The juniors proved how indispensable those dispensations were with Emma Douglass dominating the 9.4km lap 4 to give Olympic the lead again. With the head Riceman Sarah set to run lap five it was looking like the B-Babez would be but a distant memory in Olympic’s race recap. On the longest lap number 5, Kate Slater tackled the headwind for 10.7km and made sure that Sarah was never more than a few hundred metres ahead.

Meanwhile….

At the lap 5/6 change-over Charlotte Riceman and myself stood peering down the road into the distance, past the other waiting teams, past a cow giving birth in the paddock, past Nick Horspool lying in the long grass in a foetal position, awaiting our team members to arrive.

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Thoughts and prayers x

‘I can’t see her coming, is she coming?’

‘Don’t think so…?’

‘No I literally can’t see, I’m pretty much blind, can you tell me if you see Sarah?’

What would happen if I didn’t? Would I witness a guttural scream from Sarah alerting Charlotte to her arrival? Would she straight mow her sister down in to the gravel and run her over?

As these scenarios played out beneath my neatly pigtailed head Sarah ran (quite fabulously) in to sight and Charlotte moved to the middle of the changeover then off towards the 6km long hill.

A few minutes went by as I nervously waited for Kate to arrive, and when she did she was giving it everything. There is nothing quite as motivating to set you up to run a great race as witnessing someone digging deep and putting in work for the team.

I took the flax baton, painted in Scottish red, yellow and black and set off to run the hill that has DOUBLE the elevation of the Makara hill climb.

The men’s teams were all catching up at this stage so I had multiple cheer squads on my lap. ‘Good job Amanda!’. Support is nice, but what really works for me is a bit of Britney.

Britney

Up, up, up, around sweeping corners with views down a valley that I couldn’t enjoy because my eyes were crusting up with sweat. At least I knew Charlotte wouldn’t be seeing any of it either. I kept looking at the distance on my watch, half way, oh dear.

Brendon and Elliot were cheering for me along the way, only because they like my boobs (which looked massive in the company of runners) and I finally caught up to Charlotte with 300m to go.

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As I crested the hill, Naomi Christensen was waiting at the changeover ready to sacrifice her quads on the 9.5km downhill lap seven. As Naomi descended in to hell, Emma came up with a bag of Jaffas because she is the best person in the world and offered me a handful in exchange for the details of my lap time. A victory for the ladies, we had beaten the Scottish SM D team runner by two minutes*.

Meg Fahy had stipulated in the lap selection conversation that she did not like ‘uphills’. Taking that quite literally, Meg was given lap 8. It wasn’t just uphills. There had been murmurs within the team pre-race that this was the hardest lap, and very hilly. I calmly waved these aside and flat out lied about how easy the lap was, because sometimes that’s what you have to do. Two weeks of stressing about a run? Or 50 minutes of awful pain in your legs and hatred directed at your team captain?

Olympic had Jo Doherty on their final leg so unless the loud screaming from their van popped one of her eardrums, setting her off balance and sending her down a cliff into the harbour, our battle for 7th and 8th was all but over. Meg was a champion over the hills and arrived in Akaroa looking a bit like ‘What the fuck’ and charged across the finish line to bring our team home in 5.48.54.

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The gorgeous happy fizzers that are the B-Babez + confused lion cub mascot

Our team was 8th behind Olympic, we bettered the last Scottish A team’s result from 2015 by 13 minutes, and we were the B team! With the new depth within the club’s women’s section it won’t be long until we achieve the notoriety of our men’s sections B-Boys.

Our SW A team did win bronze, their first medal since 2014 on this same course, and 8 minutes faster than the bronze medal winners of 2014!

 

 

Full results are here, Scottish cleaned up in the men’s races but perhaps most impressively, there were 14 teams from across every club in Wellington on the podiums. Seeing the familiar faces from inter-club events, track sessions at Newtown Park and casual runs around the bays beaming from the podium, cheering for their team, collapsing with relief at the finish line and celebrating with their mates shows what an incredible running community we have in the capital city.

Our club Scottish came away with top club for 2018, a great result for the 16 teams and 130 or so runners and supporters who travelled to Christchurch for the weekend.

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Scottish Harriers- Top Club 2018!

Note*A late challenge was put fourth to the Scottish B-Babez by the senior men’s D team. They may have beaten us on total time but we bettered them on laps 1, 3, 6 & 7. They can call that a victory if they like but I’m yet to see any nail art or baby mascots from them so…

 

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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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NZ Half Marathon Championships

The night before a race is like the night before catching a flight to go on that holiday that you’ve been saving for months for. You’re afraid that you’ll sleep in and miss it, so your body wakes up every hour. You get stressed out that you’ll be too tired from not sleeping and not enjoy it as much, or that your glands are sore, your achilles is getting niggly, or that you’re going to be like that poor guy who shat himself during the marathon. Yes, that will be you. All of the above and MORE will happen to you, so panic now!

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Start line of the 2014 NZ Half Marathon Champs

The night before the race- Amanda the avid Rugby fan, like all other patriotic New Zealander’s watched the All Black’s test match. Coconut water in one hand, vege sausage rolls in the other, I sat facing the screen, resting my limbs and feigning interest in the wads of muscle hitting each other at speed while I imagined tomorrow’s run. My pre-race plan is to eat as if it’s your last meal, cram as much in as possible. Don’t eat Haribo Gummi bears or large quantities of raw fruit, just eat your normal dinner but a in a portion size equal to your bodyweight at 18months old (Consult your Plunket book for an accurate measure).

Morning of the race– Wake up an hour before your alarm goes off after your third dream about missing the start line or arriving there naked. Eat breakfast, for me this is porridge with chia seeds and all this other fancy organic stuff that I think I need but have no idea what benefits it actually gives me.

While the porridge is porridgeinating I make a plunger full of coffee. This part of my race prep is critical. Half way in to your coffee (Which you alternate with mouthfuls of porridge and bits of a sudoku) the time will come. It’s always just as your porridge is the perfect temperature, just as you’re cracking the hard part of the sudoku, the coffee starts to move. From this point you have exactly 45 seconds in which to down spoon, get to the bathroom, and pull down your pyjama pants.

Getting all your business done well before the start gun goes off is essential so that you have peace of mind while running in your yellow pants. If you aren’t a coffee person then perhaps go the other way and have an immodium if you’re worried.

I was really confident going in to this race. I hadn’t raced a half marathon since running this exact event a year ago, and that still stands as the worst race I’ve ever run. I learned many valuable lessons in last year’s half marathon. I went out too fast, I was coming off an injury and had done one 7km run in the month leading up to the event, I wore the wrong clothes in the wrong order, and perhaps the biggest and most painful lesson was that I didn’t cut my toenails before the race. Bloody hell, it hurt.

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Post-race in 2013, bleeding toes, could barely walk!

This year my friend Chan offered to pace me. He wasn’t too fussed about getting the best possible time, and for me this run was about getting the little things right and pacing myself. What I think Chan actually wanted was a posse to run with to bear witness to his popularity. Me and another man who was dressed a little like Papa Smurf were Chan’s bridesmaids as he paraded around the bays, us tucked behind him as he gracefully put one foot in front of the other, waving, and smiling for the cameras, ‘Hi Chan!’ ‘Nice running Chandima’, Gooooo Chan!’.

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We planned to run the first half at 4.15mins/km and stick with the the 90min group. We went out a bit faster than than that and just focused on keeping a steady rhythm. There was a bit of wind as we headed out and we tactfully tucked in behind people so that they took the brunt of it. As we came to Cog Park an escaped lunatic dressed in a skeleton onesie leapt up and down and yelled ‘Go Broughty!’, Laura Shields you are amazing!

I had some Powerade at the 8km aid station then we continued to the half way point, it was pretty easy and we chatted about… RUNNING, would you believe. The crazy men that can run under 70 minutes were already flying back past us here and looking really determined. We continued to look as photogenic as ever in our bridal procession.

 

Me, Chan and Papa Smurf just past 8km's. Photo by Yuliya Bozhko

Me, Chan and Papa Smurf just past 8km’s. Photo by Yuliya Bozhko

The second half of the course after the tun around is always the best part! You know you’re over half way, and you get to see everyone on your way back and yell and wave at them because they are so happy to see that you have 7km’s to go and they have 14 🙂 I felt a bit tired here so had some raspberry Cliff Gel which stuck all over my fingers.

One more Powerade to wash this down, and a cup of water which I shoved my hand in to to get rid of raspberry residue and we were in to the final 5kms. For the first time in my life, the last 5km felt like a breeze. We saw another female up ahead and worked on passing her. We were easily holding 4min/kms with the tail wind and started to pass a few people. It’s such a great feeling to be doing negative splits, going faster in your second half being only a few km’s from the finish line.

I passed a guy running the marathon that I had seen doing the Tarawera, he always magically appears in that point of the race when you’re trying to find anything you have left to get you over the line as quickly as possible. ‘How are you doing?’ ‘Really good!’ Running up the final ramp I weaved through the 10km walkers and could see the giant digital clock in sight. 1.27.15 it said. I was stoked, better get across that line within the next 45 seconds so I can claim 1.27! I’m good at the sprint finish, I have a secret weapon for such intense moments, a giant vein on the right side of my temple. It comes out at key moments in my life, and only when cameras are involved.

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My final finish time was 1.27.55, with a mat time of 1.27.48. That’s a 7minute PB on last year’s run!

What I loved about this race was seeing people I’ve met through my club, through the gym and those familiar faces you see on your regular runs, all out there giving it a go. I’m a lot more in tune with my body now than I was a year ago. I know how hard I can push myself, I know when I’m too tired, too thirsty, and if it’s my legs or my lungs that are fatigued.

Full results are here! Getting under 90 minutes with this race also means I get an Athletics New Zealand ranking, which is pretty cool. I look forward to chasing a faster time later this year and perhaps getting closer to 26.

WINNER! The prize was an expired Powerade, I was elated!

WINNER! The prize was an expired Powerade, I was elated!

What I did right!

  • I competitively ate the night before the race so that I had enough energy for the race
  • I cut my toenails
  • Even though it was cold, I wore a singlet, you always warm up after 10minutes
  • I worked with someone, this is great for staying on track and sticking to your plan. Having that person say ‘Come on you can do this, it’s not as hard as Tarawera’ is a real help!

How I can improve for next time

  • I ran the Rimutaka rail trail a week before this, all 34kms of it. It was fun, but my legs were still feeling it a week later. I should stick to the program. But there was a waterfall! Stick to the program.
  • Match my yellows better, it’s all or nothing here, sunshine yellow and Scottish Gold was a bit risky, next time we’ll go for black shorts and perhaps a crop top to keep my chest from hitting my chin.
  • Try harder! I need to lose my fear of blowing up and not having the energy to cross the line, I think If I can manage 3.50min/kms at the end I could have given a little more effort earlier on

P.S This race doubled as the NZ Half Marathon Championships. I came 13th female overall, and 8th in the Championship. The Scottish Senior women also took out the team competition.