My Romance With Running

Stories about 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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Wairarapa Womens 100

On the 15th of September 2018, women all over the world rode their bikes together as part of the Rapha Women’s 100. Being in New Zealand we were lucky enough to be one of the first to complete the ride, and had the privilege of doing it around the rolling hills of the Wairarapa on a sunny day.

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What a day for it!

The Wairarapa Women’s 100 is a non-competitive cycling event hosted by Traction Fitness to celebrate women’s riding. It begins in Martinborough at the Village Cafe then goes out for a 66km loop around Gladstone, back through Martinborough then out for a final 35km loop around Greytown.

 I’ve never entered a cycling event before this one, they all seemed a bit intimidating and I was never sure if I was fit enough or if I had the right gear. The last time I cycled with a large group of females I was at boarding school, and that was just every 28 days, not 100km. The way the event was described made me confident that it would be fun, and that there was no pressure if I got tired and wanted to stop riding.

‘If you have never thought about completing 100 km, start thinking about it – you will never be in the company of so many supportive women cyclists. And if you can’t manage 100 km without stopping, then you don’t have to. You can stop for coffee and cake.’

I have attempted to go on a ‘Easy ride to meet people’ with a bunch of mostly men and a few women. Before we had ridden 3km I was hanging off the back with my heart rate at threshold, trying in between gasps to introduce myself to the other ladies who had also been dropped like some regrettable 2am dance moves in Estab. This heart attack continued for a further 60km.

When we eventually stopped at the cafe, I got there last so was the last person to get my coffee and scone, this was devastating when I had burned matches, lit my curtains on fire and then razed to the ground any remaining energy I had. JUST GIVE ME THAT BUTTERY SCONE NOW! I enjoyed that ride because it was challenging, but it wasn’t easy and I struggled to meet people as I could. Not. Breathe.

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The ‘Easy ride’ where I red lined for 60km.

The Wairarapa Women’s 100 looked like it would actually be easy, and I figured if I do get dropped it doesn’t matter because I know I can handle a tough 60km and just finish at the cafe.

On the day there were three starting groups based on a description of how you feel and how you want your day to go, rather than a specific time. This was great because as someone who has never done a cycling event, I had no idea how long it would take me to ride 100km. I picked the last start group;

‘You will have completed a 100 km ride before & although not feeling 100% will know you can do it with encouragement :)’

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The start of the ride! People in matching kit make me nervous.

We set off along the quiet roads winding through vineyards that I had last ridden along 9 glasses of wine deep, and I thought how great it was to return here and have the same level of enjoyment with just water, and a way fancier bike.

Within half an hour our starting group of 30 had split in to a few smaller pelotons (am I using the right word?) and my group formed a sassy little chain gang.

Riding 40km an hour rotating through the group and taking turns at the front, I felt amazing, it was so cool! I felt so privileged to be among a group of strong, badass lady cyclists all sharing the work, encouraging and motivating each other. We also looked out for each other when aggro motorcyclists tried to scare us shitless by riding extremely close and tooting. Jokes on you, man, no matter how scared I got I wasn’t going to shit in my new Rapha kit.

We went through the 66km loop in just over two hours, I couldn’t believe how fast it was. Riding in a bunch is so much easier, and more fun, than riding alone. From around 50km I had run out of water, I tried to drink a lot to keep up my milk supply with feeding baby E. I was so looking forward to seeing her at the end of the first loop and expected her to be needing me, or at the least happy to see me. She didn’t care.

I quickly got my kit off in a non-sexy using my mammaries to feed my child sort of way, made easier by my awesome Cadenshae feeding bra, and baby E had a wee tipple of the nipple.

Because I stopped my fast group had all sailed straight through on to their second lap, so I set out on my own for the final 34km. Half way around a group of amazing ladies caught up to me so I tagged on the back and so began another little coordinated effort, taking turns to lead and chatting about riding.

I managed to finish the 100km in about 3 hours 20 minutes, which is how long it takes me to do 70km around Wellington on my own! You can see the route on Strava here.

I was worried about being able to feed four month-old Baby E on this ride as she won’t take a bottle, but that turned out not to be an issue at all. The Village cafe was the perfect place to stop off and do this. I was also a bit worried about riding for so long with my period #ladyproblems but that was a non-issue as well. I used a cup for the first time and it was hassle free, I didn’t notice it at all.

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My Girl

I had an amazing day out riding with cool new people in a beautiful new place. It gave me a lot of confidence in my abilities, and I rode 100km! The event was casual in atmosphere but super organised so that we had all the information and guidance that we needed to make it a fun and stress-free day on the road. Everyone was very supportive, from the guy who made sure we were taking the right turns on the road, to the riders, my awesome partner, the guy who put my chain back on while I was breastfeeding and the cafe staff, everything was ka pai! 10/10 Would recommend!

 


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It’s the tits!

Is it morning already?

You stare bleary eyed at the ceiling, stretching and yawning, and you’re immediately aware of hunger pangs in your puku. You rub your eyes with balled fists and lick your gums. Pulling your warm booties over your feet, you stumble in to the kitchen, just in time to see your muesli and yoghurt walking out the door! Running shoes on, spoon tucked under one arm, clearly trying to make a break for it while you were sleeping.

What would you do? Scream. You would scream and poke your tongue out repeatedly until the delicious breakfast items are returned to you.

That’s what the baby does when I want to leave the house for an early run. And fair enough, I get hungry, and I love breakfast too. I just don’t enjoy having to be the breakfast.

I was aware of all ‘The things NOBODY tells you about pregnancy and child birth!’ after clicking the bait and reading at least ten online articles with that exact title. But I still got a shock with the titties. As a life-long member of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee (who never graduated from wearing an A-cup bra) the titties have been my biggest challenge.

If you run a lot you might be in the same teeny tiny boat. Boobs are not something you need to worry about when they are small. They never bounce, they don’t get chafe, and you can keep wearing the same grimy, stretched, unsupportive crop-top you’ve had for the past six years because all it’s really doing is censoring your nipples.

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Example of nipple censoring crop-top that is doing zero work.

Of all the misguided yet well-meaning advice given to me while pregnant this had the poorest timing, ‘Make the most of them when they’re small’.

You see, people were giving me this advice a few weeks after I had given birth. Perhaps they were referring to the baby, but I couldn’t see any baby past these giant milky globes and salami nipples.

By the time you get this advice it is too late and your tits are at their peak size. Bloated like a week-old dead ewe, and so tender that even looking at them hurts. They are leaky, vascular, rock-hard melons.

Oh, it’s far too late. You think back to those times, nine months ago, when your tiny rack fit neatly into a size small crop top. A single thin layer of stretchy fabric, and you could run without needing reinforced stitching in your bra or your vagina.

Gone are the days where you could break into a care-free jog to cross the street, the days of hugging people without your boobs noticeably pressing in to their chest, and the days of taking selfies from any angle other than above your face. You have cleavage to consider now so your ‘best angle’ has completely changed.

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What a lovely photo #oopsdidntmeanto

I wish I had made the most of them while they were small. I think back to the times when I moaned about my small chest, and my boobs looking like two extra abdominal muscles rather than actual mammaries.

I use to pull a crop top over my head and be on my merry way out the door for a run in the sun. Then my chest grew and I had to introduce a new check before heading out the door.

  • House key – check
  • Laces double-knotted – check!
  • Socks match my crop top and shoes are of a complimentary colour – check
  • Nipples are in alignment – che-

Wait, what?

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Nipple confusion is a real issue

They take a while to get use to, but like most pregnancy and child related things they will change quickly and before I know it they will be gone, faded deflated to a distant memory. So I’ll be making the most of them while they’re big.

‘The tits’
The same as The Shit, only better because tits are great and shit isn’t.
‘That Shit Was The Tits!’


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Exercising with a baby – The Wind Trainer

It’s a challenge to get exercise when you have a young baby. It’s not just because you can’t leave them to fend for themselves while you trot around the block for a run.

Has your body healed enough to exercise? Do you have the energy after getting up five times last night to feed them? Should you be tackling the pile of laundry or vacuuming the floor (that is looking rather gritty) instead of focusing on your fitness? Is it cruel to take them for a walk in the pram in the wind and rain?

I knew that to exercise I’d have to find a way to do it that did not involve leaving the house, so I bought a wind trainer to use with my bike.

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This is a wind trainer!

After some trial and error I have found the perfect method for a successful session on the wind trainer which I will share with you today. Below you will find the recipe for success, you can thank me later by sending me wine and cheese.

INGREDIENTS

  • Wind trainer – ordered online and held up due to duties tax which has turned in to a guilt tax at the amount you spent on it
  • Bicycle – best to have one with a filthy chain to match the rest of your filthy house
  • Large television – high-res so you can see details through sweaty squinting eyes
  • Table or shelf – at roughly the height of your top tube, wide enough to fit a baby on
  • Baby wrangling tools – i.e dummy, bottle, toys, a length of rope, your mum
  • Sleeping baby – (Do not use an awake baby, your recipe will be ruined)
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Example of an almost perfect set up

METHOD

1. Set up the wind trainer in front of the TV, lining up the cassette with the black smear of rubber you burned in to the carpet last time you tried to exercise on your bike.

HOT TIP! Set baby to sleep mode after you have set up your wind trainer to allow yourself three extra minutes of exercise.

2. Baby placement in relation to the bike is key if this recipe is to be a success. A good baby placement is to have their mouth within reach of your hand. When (not if, when) they cry you can easily put a bottle, dummy, or chain-grease covered finger into their mouth to placate them.

The best position is with baby sleeping parallel with your bike,  just out of range so that your knee doesn’t connect with their tiny infant body on the up stroke and fling them behind you. In this position it is easy to pick them up and dangle a sweaty breast into their mouth if they start to make screamy noises at you.

3. Put on a documentary about cycling, it should include doping, so pick any Tour de France race coverage. Watching people inject drugs into their butt cheeks will alleviate any parental guilt that you feel at putting yourself first and exercising when you think you should be cleaning, cooking, or doing baby related admin. Good on you for not injecting EPO in to your stretch mark-covered, saggy black underpants wearing, wobbly, sweaty ass cheeks. You’re going to earn a fitter bum-bum the honest way.

HOT TIP! Watch Icarus, Rodchenkov’s mother personally injected him with performance enhancing drugs. You aren’t doing any such thing to your precious baby, so while your kid might not win Olympic gold YOU might still win mother of the year!

4. Start the white noise of your pedalling BEFORE you turn on the TV to avoid any loud bangs that may activate the child’s startle reflex. If you can be bothered doing intervals, make sure that when you finish that hard minute of pedalling that you don’t clunk the gears changing them back down. This loud metal bang accompanied with your tired grunting activates the startle reflex in the baby, followed by the ‘waaaaah’ siren that is difficult to turn off without dismounting your bike.

5. If you begin to lose motivation, glance over at the baby’s head. Now look back at your bike seat, now back at the head. Your vagina has pushed out a thing bigger than the bike seat you’re sitting on, you’re a total bad ass! Superwoman,  if you laboured for hours then you can pedal a bike for five more minutes.

HOT TIP! If any sweat drips on to the baby, leave it there. Your child will learn from an early age what hard work tastes like. They have had almost every other possible bodily fluid of yours smeared on them so why not add this one to the collection?

If you begin to lose the will to live, looking at that sweet baby’s head will make you feel much better. You’ve already reproduced so your legacy will live on through the child if you don’t live to see the end of this wind trainer session.

 

 

 


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How did I get an eleven out of ten?

Did I cheat? Did someone fudge the results? Was I using drugs?

I re-calculated just to make sure, and I still got the same answer. If circumference is equal to pi times the radius squared, the answer to two decimal places is 11.45 out of ten!

And that is the cleanest and simplest way I could describe childbirth. An 11.45cm wide thing out of, I’ll leave it there.

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Post ride with a peaceful pēpi

Today marks six weeks since a small human being with a head, limbs and a torso fought it’s way out of my pelvis. A small being with a head in the 95th percentile. That is the sentence I repeat to myself whenever I get tempted to run. I think of how my pelvis felt, and immediately all thoughts of running dissipate like pee in a birthing pool.

I decided last Saturday that today was the day, and I would go for my first ride post baby and post episiotomy. It had been so long that I had to really think about what to wear, what to take with me, what to leave at home crying and covered in milk.

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HAPPIER TIMES WITH MY BIKE! Living the dream.

The thought of sitting on my bike again was terrifying. The diameter of that seat is roughly 10cm at it’s WIDEST point. If I went for a ride, would the seat be swallowed up? Would I be stuck riding around the Bay’s in some hellish loop until my chain rusted and my tyres popped and the stem fell of the bike with me fused to it? You can’t get saddle sores if the seat isn’t under your bottom right? Always look for the positive in any situation.

Standing on the side of the road outside my house, gloved hands finding their familiar groove on the handlebars, Jawbreakers making the world look positively rosy, I waited for the familiar beep of the GPS to tell me it was time.

Beeeeep.

One leg strains and stretches over the top tube, a shoe finds the pedal then ‘click’, we’re going forward! As I rolled down the street and lowered myself down towards the seat with the care and precision of a neurosurgeon, chamois met seat and went no further, I was sitting on a bicycle!

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That time I kept up with Ben Barry on a bike

Free falling, spinning fast down hills, wind whipping my helmet strap into my face, cold air making my nose run, it was blissful. The road, my house, the dependant baby, it all disappeared behind me and for the first time in a month I felt like an individual. I wasn’t a frazzled and nervous new mum, I wasn’t carrying a fragile newborn, I was just another lycra-clad wanker on a bike.

I blew my nose onto the ground with vocal and forceful sniffs, I spat big stringy goobies on to the side of the road, I snorted, I did all the things that are not socially acceptable to do while you’re pushing a dear little child in a pram. The glorious ride lasted all of forty minutes, and when I got home little Miss was waiting for me and complaining that she was hungry.

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Tired much? Should have left my glasses on.

I’ve said to myself and multiple others that I will do the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge in November. I think that having a non-running goal to work towards will be good for me in returning to fitness. It takes the pressure of trying to return to running too quickly, and I won’t have time to run too much if I try to get bike fit.

I know that it will be hard to get back in to good form for running, and I don’t want to compare myself or my performances to what I was doing pre-pregnancy and baby. I know that I would feel a bit inadequate and disappointed if I was taking a long time to get ‘fit’ again, or if in fact I never got back to the same level of fitness.

I had a go on the wind trainer this week, I forgot how much NOT FUN AT ALL it is.

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‘Make the most of them while they’re little’ they say to the new Mum. I’ll be making the most of them while they’re big, thanks.

I set myself up in front of the TV, baby asleep, house freezing cold. Conditions were prime for my first sweat session. Setback one was me playing a bike-packing movie on Netflix, ‘Pedal The World‘, to motivate myself. They were ambling along, taking in the culture and the scenery and really there was not a lot of action. So switched on Stop At Nothing and watched all the doped up cyclists smashing themselves up hill climbs and in sprints, day after day, year after year. Watching Lance go ball-to-wall was a bit more exciting than watching Felix talk about his feelings. Sorry Felix.

Setback two was that I managed to burn rubber in to the carpet. Twice. I blame the rusty old wind trainer for this unsightly mark in the middle of the living room. At least I know exactly where to set up next time (larger darker mark, slightly to the right is the perfect spot).

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The baby did it.

Today we bought a new wind trainer! So Taupo needs to become a reality to warrant this purchase. I did worry that I would never use the bike but that turned out to be the best damn purchase ever, so I’m sure this one will be the same.

Bring on the 80km, or 160km, which distance I enter depends completely on peer pressure.