My Romance With Running

Stories about running


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If you don’t have anything nice to say

‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.’

I know that what mum meant when she said this was to refrain from calling my brothers stupid dicks or poo heads (in public, say what you like on the farm), but the phrase has stuck with me like dried cow shit to a bike frame.

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No it’s fine. I’m fine. Really it’s fine. I meant this to happen.

Being a generally happy human, a ‘yes’ person, and doing nice things for people because that is what gives you joy, that’s all a bit hard when you aren’t feeling yourself.

It’s been a challenge the past ten months being injured on and off, on and off, and never quite getting back to training properly. I thought it was best not to write anything because, well, I didn’t have anything nice to say.

It has taken me months to realise that I do have nice things to say, I just need to change the way I think and focus on the positive. Some really nice things have happened to me in the past few weeks, here’s the first one.

Nice Thing #1 I joined a gym

I was struggling along with what I thought was a tight muscle in my hip, it was painful and I had been unable to run properly for two months. I got in touch with my old personal trainer Greig Rightford at Healthfit Collective gym and got him to look at my running form. Something was definitely a bit off. He told me to stop running immediately. I hated this idea. ‘It will be hard to stop but just don’t do it, it will be better for you in the long run.’

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Things to do when you aren’t running

When stopping running didn’t stop the hip pain I went back to my GP, and got referred to see a sports Doctor. When I finally got my referral and got the call from them, the next available appointment was two months away. T W O  M O N T H S !

I was at home crying about the hot pain in my hip, and thinking about how much I hate fit and able-bodied people when Greig emailed to see how I was.

Just thought I’d check in with you – how are you progressing? 

I was quick to say that I’m sick of trying to run, I give up. I’m done. Greig disagreed with that sentiment and got me to come back to the gym ‘I want to help you in any way I can.’ I’m pretty amazed at how nice people are to me, and this made my month.

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Rehabbing hard

In my second week of trying to get motivated to do early morning gym rehab I bumped in to Ruth Highet, the Doctor who helped me with my first stress fracture. When I told her about the wait to see the other Sports Doctor she said that was ridiculous.

Two hours later, sitting at my work desk I got a call from her office, and had an appointment for the next day at 9am. X-rays done, follow up appointment, MRI, all within two weeks. Everything sorted five weeks before I would have seen the first sports Doctor, incredible.

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Some things to stretch and poke your bits with

I feel incredibly lucky to know such generous people, and so grateful to have had help to get my injury diagnosed, my body healing, and my mind thinking more optimistically.

I’ve only said one nice thing, there are so many more and so many people who have gone above and beyond to help me out, I feel very humbled.

Right now I’m waiting to get the results back from my MRI, it is likely a stress fracture in the area around my hip socket, sacrum, or the top of my femur. If you guess correctly you win a prize!


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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


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There is no such race as a non-race

Word of advice, don’t enter a race with the idea that you are ‘not going to race it’.

You’re either bitching out and making an excuse to go slow, or you are a delusional post-injury runner who thinks that they learned something from seven months off and will take things easy now.

THE NON-RACE

Turn up to the Scottish Waterfront 5km race with the idea that you will be a supporter. You’re the Captain of the women’s team now so you need to be present, and clapping, and smiley. Pay $8 for the entry, to you know, give the club some extra cash because you are such a good person.

You’re going to be sensible today, you didn’t do the 16km that was on your training plan because you are still getting over the horrendous cold that put you out of action for two weeks. (The cold that lasted for two weeks because you kept trying to run before you were better, and running in the rain, and just being an idiot in general).

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A demonstration of my new and improved running form after two sick weeks

Oh look, you’re already in your running gear! Co-inkydink? I think not. Let’s just jog it you say to yourself, you can feel your eye twitch because you know you’re lying. Coach Kevin says that if you must run, it is best to run with the 25 minute plus group so that you aren’t tempted to race.

With each minute that passes before the start time you adjust your goal pace to be a second faster, arriving at a still quite sensible pace of 4.45 per km. Sensible for the runner recovering from a chest cough, green snot and stress fracture? Yeah sure!

You don’t warm up because you don’t need to before this non-race, because you are going to jog it.

This is the sort of logic you are using

This is the sort of logic you are using

Set the scene: You are standing amongst a gangle of 17 year old boys at the start line. Lanky awkward boys who look built for running because they haven’t discovered beer yet. All wear size 12+ shoes that none have ever learned to tie properly. One minute to go until the start time. One of the lankies starts to count down from fif-ty-nine, fif-ty-eight, fif-ty-seven, thankfully his voice breaks in to a high pitched squeal and he stops the countdown.

Up until someone says Go, you have made good decisions.  That magic word go. The ‘Go on throw caution to the wind!’ kind of Go. Go NUTS.

Upon hearing GO! we all speed off through the first kilometre, weaving through meandering crowds on the Wellington waterfront. The plan of doing the sensible 4.45 pace isn’t 4.45, it’s 4.20. That is still ok you think, I can hold this pace, it’s still cruising…

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Views on course of the Scottish Waterfront 5km race

The lankies start to fade after five minutes. You stick to an even pace and cruise past them, making sure to run as close as possible up behind them to let them know that you make angry breathing noises when you run fast. This is where it becomes hard to stick to an even pace, not physically, mentally. In front of you are 12 more lankies, clomping size twelves along the pavement and fading fast. All have targets on their backs, ‘Hey there, if you speed up to 4.05 you can pass me! If you do an even 4minute you’ll pass me too! Faster faster faster!

Your ego takes control of your legs and you now have tunnel vision where you can only see targets ahead and nothing. Else. Matters. You hear Hinano’s voice in your head ‘Run with your balls!’ Balls to the wall, you give it 110%.

The familiar feeling creeps in, the lactic acid in your quads, the spit gathers at the corners of your mouth, you drive hard for the finish line and with a final burst of speed make it past the orange cones. You sit on the ground heaving and panting for a split second before realising that you jogged that race. So you stand up, breathe normally, and walk calmly over to talk to Coach Kevin about your future jogging plans.

My final time for the 5km was 21.17, a good 100 seconds off my PB but because I ran down all those stinky teenagers and I feel like it was a good run. An ego boosting run. I have been back in to running for two months now after seven months off so anything is a win!


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You’re Crowning! I can see a head!

A week ago I was about to graduate from my ‘back to running’ program. I had been sticking to it for 95% of the time, for 90% of the program before I was placed at the start of the Blue Lake Trail in Tarawera, with a fly trail honey in a LuluLemon crop top and matching speed shorts.

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Bambi running through the forest

Sunshine, pungas, a crystal Blue Lake, runboners coming from all sides after watching a few hundred crazy people run an Ultra Marathon. The mood was set, the odds were stacked against me, and I cheated the program.

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A view of Green Lake from the Track around Blue Lake. You’d go there.

Running across the beech forest floor in my favourite yellow shorts, shoulders burning in the heat, sweat trickling over my lips and Hinano yelling ‘This is the banana I remember!’ as we circled the lake with fresh legs, floating feet and Colgate grins.

About ten minutes in to the glorious dream-sequence of a run I tripped on a rock/my runboner and landed almost exactly on the right side of my Pelvis. LOL. (Is Cry Out Loud a thing?) Very COL to land on the fractured side, good show.

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The tiny drips of blood don’t do justice to the pain, I swear.

On Sunday the 8th of February at 9.54am, covered in blood, crying, and blinking in the bright light, Amanda the runner was re-born. She arrived two weeks early but is healthy and gaining weight. A special thanks to Hinano Andrews Runwife for overseeing the rebirth and ensuring a smooth delivery.

Aside from a few scratches I didn’t have any pain after a steady hour on the trails, you could not wipe the smile off my face that day.

I had taken the recovery very, very slowly, and I think to finish the most boring running program in existence would have been a little pointless as things have well and truly healed. Hear that? The sound of justification, let it echo around the room and bounce off the piles of running shoes on the floor and the race numbers hanging from the wall.

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Squeeeeeeeee!

I am being really cautious in starting to train again, it would be easy to try pushing myself to go faster and longer but that will come back eventually. I have a new program to follow, and aside from actually STICKING TO IT AMANDA the key points are;

  • Increase mileage by only 10% per week
  • Don’t do any hard runs up or down hill. (As long as you don’t get a CR then it isn’t a hard run)
  • Listen to Kevin, Inge, and all the other people who know all the things
  • Keep up with the cross training (cycling, swimming, aqua jogging)
  • Buy new running gear because if I look fresh I will run fresh
  • Bitch out while I can. I do one KM repeat while my training group do five and I expect just as much if not more praise.
  • Spend my next pay on a new Garmin. Because cadence. And because if I get lost driving around Rotorua I probably need extra help with navigation.

Seven months ago my km repeats were around 3.33, now they are about 3.49. It’s not bad really, it’s the fact that you do them on a track where fifteen seconds looks like half a lap and by the time you finish your rep everyone else has had time to put on party hats and get stuck in to a chocolate cake.

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I am a lot more aware of imperfections in my form, and have been spending a lot of time on flexing my guns in front of the mirror before I run them off in training hip flexors, they are so incredibly tight right now. Physio knows best, and I have been working hard on getting things functioning properly so that I don’t get injured that badly again.

I am back to where I was a little under 2 years ago in terms of total mileage per month, but a lot slower, and not running as far. I have done it before, so I have the experience and I know I can do it again.

After my third steady run I have managed to somehow spit into the inside of my sleeve so I can tell it’s going to be a lot of fun getting back in to training. The spit, the snot, the chafe, the blisters, the toenail fatalities. Running I have missed you!


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Breaking a Six Month Drought

How do you get your mojo back after a dry spell?

When it’s dry, it’s dry for ages. Often the only thing you need to get a good stiff run under your belt is a slightly less desirable initial run, just to break the drought and dust things off.

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How do you define a drought?

A drought is an extended period when a runner experiences a deficiency in his or her run supply. A drought can last for months or years, or may be declared after as few as 3 days depending on existing levels of hypochondria and addiction.  It can have a substantial impact on the fitness and mental state of the affected runner. The definition may depend on you, and what you class as a ‘normal’ number of times to be sneaking off for a quick run. Some of us do it twice or more a day, others once a week, and the odd few save it for special occasions like Christmas and New Years (those fitness resolutions are great!). I think we can all agree, that if you haven’t wet your end of your nose with sweat from a run in six months, you are experiencing a drought.

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What a run drought looks like on Strava

During a dry spell you can feel quite left out of the action, because you are. You wake up feeling squeaky-clean on a Sunday morning, and you’ve got no juicy stories for your workmates on Monday about the sweet route you conquered in the weekend. If it’s been a while since you’ve been out for an all-morning sweat fest you might be feeling like it’s never going to happen again.

This hot weather we’ve been having in Wellington gets everyone in the mood for it. Bronzed bare legs and a warm 120km/h breeze blowing through your hair like a Pantene commercial, the conditions are perfect for some carefree summer loving. I’m here to help you to get back in to the game, to end your drought, and regain your prowess on the streets, the track and the trails.

Let’s put another notch on your GPS watch and break the dry spell, let’s get you a RUN.

  1. Take stock of your appearance

What typically happens to your body during a six month drought?

You gain or lose weight, you wear things that aren’t made of spandex and regain a sense of style, your hair is clean, and you have all your toenails! You have had lots of spare time while you haven’t been chasing trails to work on things like flossing your teeth and getting hair cuts, there will have been some big changes. You need to reverse all of that.

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Consider changing your hair, making it more aero. If you have acquired a fringe since being out of action this just has to go, they are not good for running. Have you shaved off your beard trying to look clean and fancy? Grow that pube-face back, especially if you’re running off road, you need somewhere to keep mementos of your big running dates.

The boobs/moobs? I’m sorry but they need to go. Also not aero. Once you get back on the horse you will have plenty of time to run off your titties, but if you want to start the process now then get your bum on to a spin bike. I recommed the RPM classes at Les Mills to get your lungs cardio ready before launching back in to that first run.

2.Get ‘Interested’ again

If you find yourself home alone (again) eating pizza and watching the Susan Boyle X Factor audition (again) to make yourself believe that the Ugly Duckling story can come true, just stop right now and put away the pizza (keep the tissues out though).

If you have lost that burning desire that once had you at it twice a day, try to reignite that passion. The best quality ‘inspirational’ material is on the websites you can subscribe to, like Flotrack. Sign up to the site, grab a sock, some bodyglide, a strong shoelace, and any other running paraphernalia that might get you inspired (I like to wear my race medals when I watch running videos), and settle back for an evening with just you and the screen.

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Runboner material from Flotrack featuring Mary Cain

The more you watch, the more you will get inspired and want to get a slice of the action for yourself.

  1. Have realistic expectations

You’re not going to get that perfect run on the first go, so just stop with the idealism and focus on what is attainable for you right now to get this first run out of the way. Have an open minded approach when it comes to choosing your run.

What you are saying:

‘I need to get new shoes, it has to be a sunny day, I need perfect form, my favourite flavour energy gel, and the scenery has to be so good that I try to fumble a photo with my iPhone and run and eat my gel at the same time.’

What you’ll say if you really want a route. to run:

‘Stuff it, I’ll run in my chucks and skinny jeans on the damp grass after eating a turkish kebab at 2am’

Don’t wait for that perfect run to come along, you have to slay a few dragon runs to get back to prancing like a prince or princess.

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It won’t be pretty. Nice one on the ponytail hole Lululemon.

  1. Take every opportunity

Drought buster- A person you normally wouldn’t run with but whom you decide to bang. out a run with anyway because you haven’t been on one for too long i.e. The person who breaks the dry spell.

“I heard you had a run with Emily. That girl is suspect. What were you thinking?” 
“Yeah, she’s not quality. She runs 12 minute kms. I’m not proud, but what can I say? She was my drought buster.”

All your friends have continued training and you’ve been left in the dust. They are all married to their training programs, and can’t just do casual runs any more. You need to meet new people, ones who are going to have an attainable pace that you can see yourself conquering without too much effort.

Be wary of the running virgin. It may be tempting to pick up someone who hasn’t run before to help you break your drought. You might fluke it and have an amazing run with one of these people, but it’s never good having to comfort them the next day when they are in pain and walking with a swagger because of you. On the plus side, your technique can’t look bad to them, because they don’t know any better!

Other potential drought-busters

Online meetups. These are often in a group though, so if you’ve been flying solo for a few months, going straight in to a group situation can be intimidating. Some people don’t like group runs, but if you’re serious about breaking the dry spell then doing it in a group means you have not just one but up to ten new potential future running buddies! From these ten you may find the one that you can go steady with on long run Sundays. I recommend our local group Wellington Running Meetup, they are fantastic.

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Wellington Running Meetup. It gets weird.

THE ONE

When the golden opportunity finally presents itself, try to remain calm. Take it slowly or it will be over within a couple of minutes. Start off at an easy pace to get in to the rhythm, if it feels uncomfortable then slow it right down. Listen to some Lionel Ritchie if it will help to set the pace.

Expect the unexpected, it may feel like you have never done it before if it’s been a while but practice makes perfect right? The shock of that initial run is over, now it’s time for you to get in to training!

Describe using as many multi-syllabled adjectives as possible, what your first time (or first time in a long time) was like. Share with the group, go on.


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A Running blog by a non-runner

I’ve just passed the six month mark post-pelvis-phuck up!

I thought that when I went to Fiji in November that I would be running around the islands underneath palm trees at 5am before the sun got too hot. I thought that I would be building back up to doing a half marathon by February.

Like hell.

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Having a mope with my duty free puku by the pool in Denerau Fiji

Lately I have been asking myself why I am even bothering with the rehab to run again. What for? I can walk, I can swim, I can binge watch three seasons in a weekend of Sons of Anarchy, I can do so many other things, so why focus on trying to do that one thing that my body doesn’t want to let me do? I’ve been swimming so much that my back won’t zippity zip in to my dresses. I simply can’t reach across it’s vast expanse of rippling muscles to sunblock the entire thing, resulting in patchy burnt bits.

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#BigRippedBackProblems

The Podiatrist filmed me running in December so that he could see how everything was working post-injury. It feels a bit weird running, my knees get sore, and my vast muscular back has a big kink in it, but I just thought that was something to do with being unfit. Or perhaps since I’m all super buff now it’s just too much weights, not enough speed work?

I watched the video the podiatrist made, and to be putting it mildly I look like Quasimodo. He made me tuck my singlet in to my shorts for the film, just in case I had some swag left, he cleared it all right away. Everything is tilting at odd angles, and my style is completely different to when I could run. I can’t run! The Physiotherapist’s words from the day of diagnosis echo in my ears like the ghosts of Pelvis Past, ‘When you can run again, it will be like you have never run befoooorrreeeee. Neverrrrrrrrr’

I hate when other people are right, and you can specifically remember the words they used when you were scoffing at them for not being right. Good brain, remember that so you can rub it in.

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I know how both the Stallion and the Donkey feel

I think it takes an afternoon of whining and tears, followed by a stern lecture to get back on track sometimes and realise how far you have come in recovery. A friend reminded me of this; Successful people always deal with failure, that failure is a part of what is making them successful. The ability to deal with it, learn from it, and move on is why you succeed. You can play it safe, don’t take any risks, and you’ll never have to fear losing something.

But why would you want to do that? If you’re pushing your body to it’s physical and mental limits, you’re going to have to toe the line, and you’re going to cross it a few times before you figure out exactly where it is. And then, of course, the line will move.

My walkrun program has been progressing at donkey’s pace. Every third day I put on my running kit, lace up my shoes, strap on my Garmin and walk to the top of my street to a grass field. I walkrun laps of it according to the dreaded program. I feel ashamed to be walking and jogging in a continuous loop, I should be out around the Bays dodging balance bikes, overtaking people doing intervals, jumping over dog poo smears and yelling ‘SCUSE MEEE! as I stealthily run up behind elderly women on their lunch time power walks.

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The grassy field/prison where I complete my walkruns

Because I’m not going to be running a 90 minute half marathon any time soon, I’ve decided that six months off is enough to completely reset my relationship with running, and start fresh.

I’m going to hide my Tarawera T-shirt, my participation First female in my age grade with the initials ACB medals, my hydration pack (don’t need water for a 5km run kids!) and my heart rate monitor. I’m going to plead ignorance when someone asks me the difference between trail shoes, racing flats, road shoes and red bands. I’m going to run 9.87km with my Garmin and not understand why one should just run another 130 metres. I’ll stare blankly at people when they ask me what my PB is, ‘Oh it’s Fix and Fogg, I have half a jar of Pic’s Peanut Butter in my condiment cavalry too!’.

I can’t wait to ask the seasoned runners  ‘How far is a marathon?’ and my favourite, ‘How fast do you run?’

Hi, my name is Amanda. I’m new here! Any advice you have on how to run would be much appreciated.


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Recovering from a stress fracture Act II

Have you ever been really drunk when it wasn’t quite appropriate, and convincingly tried to act sober?

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COULD AN INJURED PERSON DO THIS?

You manage to convince yourself of your sobriety immediately, (Pah, thish ish totally buhlievibble) but others who are not suffering the effects of overindulging, can see right through the facade.

I had been employing a similar tactic to this when visiting my perfectly able bodied Sports Physician Ruth; trying to look un-injured. She must have been well use to the scent of strapping tape and ibuprofen, last night’s pool chlorine still seeping from my pores while I attempt to walk in a straight line with my floppy drunk leg then stand on one foot, roll over, and beg.

I went to see Ruth for my check up last week, sixteen weeks after I first got my stress fracture. We sat in her office, with pictures of New Zealand Olympic Athletes covering almost every wall, staring out at me with their He Man quads and their exclusive Olympic Ring tattoos. Ruth performed the sobriety test for what must have been the fifth time now, I wasn’t sure I would nail it, but here goes.

Stand on one foot and sit down, left, then right 

Jump up and down on your left foot, then your right

Lie on your back while I poke your Pelvis and rotate your leg/hip area.

She handed me my report card, it’s a pass! Then came the prize,  ‘You can start your walk to run program, but I want you to see the podiatrist first to check your running style’. I bounced out to reception and booked in to see the podiatrist, the closest appointment they had was the 15th of December. Nobody can contain a run boner for that long. Nobody.

I phoned Mr Podiatry myself and got an appointment for the upcoming Sunday. I would need to run to be able to have him see my running style. A PARADOX! Don’t run until he sees you run. Run a little bit beforehand so he can see how you run and you’re not totally gammy from four months off. What to do?

This is what the back to running program FUN looks like!!

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The instructions are to do each level of exercise four times, with a day in between each runwalk. Under those instructions this program will take me ten weeks, which seems like an incredibly long time. Anyone who has trained me or trained with me will tell you straight away that I am terrible at sticking to a program, but with this one I am going to break (or heal) the mold.

Ben came with me for runwalk #1. We drove out to Owhiro Bay, one of my favourite places to run and did a few stretches before starting off on the 9 minute walk. As the timer got closer to 9 I was counting down the seconds until I could start that glorious golden minute of running, 8.57, 8.58, 8.59, RUN!

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Owhiro Bay

Wind not quite in my hair, legs feeling like they have aged while they have been in storage, over thinking every step, trying to enjoy that little burst of activity before the sixty seconds ended and I was back to a walk. I was really excited about starting a new stage of rehab, and I still am but with each step you have a new ascent, you start from the bottom and you climb all over again until you can see the next peak.

I still have a long way to go to get back to where I was in July, but look how far I’ve come already!

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My recovery calendar

I have been marking this calendar off with my Sharpie each morning pre-porridge/paper/poo, and watching as the days and weeks fall behind, the bad days disappear and the milestones keep coming.

  • Crutches are gone after 8 weeks
  • I can swim using my legs, and I can Aqua jog, cycle, you name it!
  • I CAN RUN! I run across the road to beat the lights, I chase people, I run in to the ocean
  • I don’t cry any more, not about being injured anyway. Just over tear jerking X-Factor performances on Youtube

The fact that I can walk 2 km to the pool, swim with my new legs then walk all the way back is a pretty big deal. No more Taxi rides, no hobbling to catch the bus and no more crutches skidding on the slick tiles in the pool. Every day I’ll get a little stronger, and eventually I’ll be back and chasing those PB’s, and having adventures on trails again with my running buddies who I have been missing (and have surely been missing me) so much!


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Practical travel tips for visiting the land of Pool

My first memories of swimming are at the Takitimu Community Pool in Ohai. I was five, my little legs couldn’t reach the bottom and I would hold on to the rail all the way along the edge of the pool. I flat out refused to put my head under the water (it ruins your curls). The pool was heated with coal from the local coal mine, and instead of inflatable toys or floatation devices to play with we had wine bladders. Whoever took it upon themselves to drink enough goon sack to give those twenty little kidlets some pool toys should be made Mayor of Ohai, a job well done. As far as I know, nobody went on to become a competitive swimmer, but everyone is pretty decent at drinking booze.

Freyberg Pool in Wellington, where I am attempting to become a local

Freyberg Pool in Wellington, where I am attempting to become a local

Not being able to swim well is only half the problem when embarking on an adventure to the land of Pool. It’s like travelling to a foreign country, where you must learn the customs, the language, and the politics of the Poolinese people.

Pool tourists can unwittingly offend local Poolinese by violating beliefs of their culture without ever intending to. If you’re planning to swimingle with the locals, do your research first so that there are no awkward misunderstandings.

BEFORE YOU GO

Put your togs on underneath your clothes to save on time and potential nip-slips in the changing room. Forget to pack spare underwear. Remember to pack a pair of unused and un-adjusted goggles, a swimming cap, an inappropriately sized towel and something to drink; the water that you swallow doing laps isn’t the best for hydration.

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My pool kit, complete with souvenir Wellington Marathon towel for proof of sportiness

Travelling is always more fun with a friend, so grab a mate who you are pretty sure is a terrible swimmer and totally foreign to the land of Pool. This way you can sympathise with each other, and band together if the locals give you any stick.

Check the lane timetables so that you don’t turn up at 6 am to start Aqua Jogging only to find that all the lanes are chock-full of swimming squads, and there is no space for you to meander along with your floaty belt apparatus.

TOUR GUIDES

For $30 per half hour (or thereabouts) you can enlist the services of a local to help you to get acquainted with the pool. The tour guides can spot a tourist a mile off, and the good ones will notice you struggling and come to offer their help. This is how I met Dougal, my lovely, patient swimming tutor. With his expert knowledge I have been able to go from swallowing 3 litres of water over 11 lengths, to drinking a mere 500ml over 54 lengths. You may also be able to arrange payment for your tour guide using wine, the Poolinese seem to enjoy this beverage.

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Dougal is a life saver!

ETIQUETTE 

The land of Pool uses a class system, and categorises people in to slow, medium, and fast. There is also a lane for Aqua Jogging which at times will attract the people who are not coordinated enough for the slow lane. These people are of great value as they become spectacles for the upright bored-out-of-their-minds aqua joggers.

Use the appropriate lane. If you are doing one of the following strokes; breast stroke, dog paddle, or ‘bird caught in fishing net’ then please do not do this in the fast lane. The fast lane is that magical lane right in the middle of the pool, where people who have huge backs and tiny waists frolic, have hilarious banter, and glide through the water like Maui dolphins. If you are new you should stick to the slow lane, where you won’t feel ashamed about taking breaks after one lap, and most of your fellow lane buddies are also more like eels in the gutter than dolphins. These eels will become your new tribe.

Treat the lanes of the pool like the lanes on a road; pull over if you are holding up traffic, or have bad fumes escaping from your exhaust.

LANGUAGE

What kind of lingo do the Poolinese use? When most of your time is spent underwater or gasping for air it is hard to hold a conversation, much less pick up some of the local dialect. Here are a few terms to get you started;

Pull:  Place a foam buoy between your legs and pull using just your arms. This lets you focus on training your arms, and your body position. Pull sounds like Pool in Kiwi speak. I must say it’s pretty disappointing when a Pool Boy is a Pull Buoy.

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Kick:  Use a kick-board and just kick, with your legs. This is slower than a legs/arms combo so remember your lane etiquette.

‘You go ahead, I’m just kicking’

‘No no you go ahead, I’m slow, I’m just arms-ing’

Apparently ‘armsing’ is not Poolinese lingo.

Laps: My logic, and my fondness of rounding up tells me that one lap is one length of the pool. This was challenged by a Poolinese girl I had befriended by the name of Sophie Lee. She said ‘I will just do ten more laps’ then did twenty! What the flipper? I don’t want to change my definition so won’t be checking this one with any of the locals.

Tumble turn: What people who don’t need an excuse to rest do when they reach the end of the pool. It’s an aquatic roly-poly and when you tumble towards the wall you work it out so that you are spat back out facing around the other way and you can keep swimming.

Goggle marks: Proof that you have been swimming. You won’t get sweaty pits or crotch as you do with a gym workout so this is how you let people know you’ve been working out. The severity of the marks will let the Poolinese know exactly how fresh you are to the land of Pool.

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Swimming nOObs are not unlike kickboxing nOObs in this respect

DRESS CODE

Traditional dress around the pool complex is quite minimal, less is more when you are dragging yourself through water. It is also possible to wear a combination of tight lycra, latex, and rubber while slapping things and still appear conservative in the context of a pool.

Wearing a bikini to swim lengths is like running wearing a bikini; if you have loose bits then things tend to fall out of it. I recommend investing in a one-piece that has no chance of untying mid-length, or a sporty two piece with a crop-top to hold things firmly in place.

For the men, get yourself a pair of Speedos, these are also known as DT’s. DT stands for Dick Togs, I learned this from my Australian friend Matthew who owned a bottle opener that was a pair of kangaroo gonads complete with original hair. He celebrated the masculine physique and if you too want to celebrate all things manly then a pair of these togs will suit you down to the grundle.

A fabulous example of DT's as street wear

A fabulous example of DT’s as street wear by LMFAO

It seems to be generally accepted in the changing room of the pool that it is a no pants zone. Don’t worry about people looking at your rudey bits, nobody cares! The Poolinese people like to test their flexibility in the changing rooms, lifting legs on to high surfaces, and without the shackles of underwear to prevent them getting that extra millimetre of stretch in there. You too can participate in the stretching and flexing, just check the location of the mirrors first, please.

DANGERS AND ANNOYANCES

#1- It would have to be drowning. Take precautions against this and get a few swimming lessons. I have been seeing Dougal every couple of weeks and have avoided drowning so far.

#2- Always assume that everyone is naked. Be cautious when running in to a shower cubicle that it is not already occupied by another nude Poolinese person. No surprise hugs in here.

#3- Hitting people. This doesn’t happen (often) while running, but kicking and poking people in the pool is a regular occurrence. If you are slow, you will be hit.

BEST POOL SAFETY TIP:

DO- Ask for advice from friends that have been to the pool. Ask experts and newbies so that you know both what you are supposed to be doing, and what you will end up doing accidentally.

DON’T- Expect to just nail a swimming stroke like you would a run. This sport isn’t a ‘turn up on the day and just do it’ kind of sport. Unless you have gills, just don’t risk it.

Have you got any advice for someone new to the Pool? Will I ever get to swim in the fast lane?


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How to break up (gracefully) with running

We’ve all been there.

You think things are going really well in your relationship. You’re happy, you’re shouting at the top of your lungs about how in love you are. You’ve built up a tight knit circle of friends around your relationship, and you can imagine yourself growing old and still being just as much in love as you are now.

Then it’s sprung on you. Things aren’t quite as perfect as you thought.

If I could pick one way to be dumped by running, I guess it would be a majestic, meaty, long run with spectacular views, hills, and slightly overcast to add a bit of moodiness. It would most definitely just the two of you alone, just you and running.

I felt it in my heart that Sunday that things might be over. Things felt strained, something didn’t feel quite right and we parted ways earlier than planned. The next day at the physio things were bad, but salvageable. A groin strain, it would just be a few days. A few days apart and then everything will be back to normal.

My life is ooooverrrr

My life is ooooverrrr

I am finding this breakup really hard, much harder than any break ups with human boyfriends. Running and I were quite steady for almost two years, it was intense! I would get out of bed for running at 4am, I’d stand in icy water reciting the alphabet, I’d go out at 6pm in the rain while everyone else is at Friday drinks, I’d do anything for running.

I know that others will have to go through this at some stage, so I’m offering my advice on how you can survive a break up.


1.Go on the rebound

Rebound with more pew pew than the 10c bouncy balls that you use to get at Paper Plus. Put your fingers and toes in every pie you can find and try any sport that your injury will allow you to do.

Do three sports in a day, do two at once, dabble in things you had never dared to do before because you didn’t understand them. Work out those body parts that you never knew existed, and embrace the things you ‘hated’ because you sucked at them.

I have discovered swimming, and although I can’t use my legs yet, three sessions a week over the past month has meant I have improved a lot and I’m really starting to enjoy it. The first few sessions were painful because I had terrible technique, no goggles, a bikini that liked to untie itself mid-length and I thought I could breathe underwater, but I am getting there! Pool etiquette is quite different to gym etiquette, I’ll elaborate more on that another time.

I find it hard not to be active, so swimming has been fantastic. If you are wondering why I try to keep going despite being injured, have a look at the person who half of my genes come from;

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MUST. KEEP. CHOPPING.

2.Make a playlist

It’s been nine weeks and four days
Since you took my running away *cue single tear*

You will need a lot of Jeff Buckley and James Blunt to begin with, that will get the self pity going and make you feel as down and as desolate as possible. If that doesn’t make you cry in to your Weetbix, follow up with a few of these gems.

  1. Cry me a River– Justin Timberlake
  2. Everybody Hurts– REM
  3. Nothing Compares 2 U– Sinead O’Connor
  4. Hurt– Johnny Cash
  5. Swear it again– Westlife
  6. All by myself– Celine Dion
  7. Iris– The Goo Goo Dolls
  8. Never had a dream come true – S Club 7
  9. Someone like you-Adele
  10. Landslide– Dixie Chicks

 

3.Vent wisely

If you need to rant, do it to a close friend and keep it short; treat any rants like a speed session. They are necessary once a week to keep you sharp, bang it out and it’s done. Nobody wants to hear about how horrible your life is on Facebook or otherwise, because when you really think about it, it isn’t.

Don’t publicly announce your hatred for your ex-sport, because you’ll regret it later. Saying these things publicly means they can’t be taken back, and people who bear witness will remind you long after the feelings have gone, what you said. If you say bad things about running you will get bad running juju and never run another PB.

I am good at internalising the bad thoughts and only letting out the good ones. I might be smiling on the outside, but inside I’ve been running through a list of my FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFavourite expletives for the past nine weeks.

4. Set some new goals

I cried every day for a month when I was first injured. I was really embarrassed about being so upset at ‘nothing’, and the goal I had was to get through the day without any tears. That was a stupid goal! So I set myself some better goals and stuck a large calendar to my wall, this is how they are progressing so far…

  • Cycling – in four weeks  No way Jose, sitting on the fracture is not happening quite yet
  • Aqua jogging – four weeks  It looks like a crap time anyway, freestyle even sounds cooler than ‘Aqua jogging’
  • Losing the crutches – 2  weeks  It’s been 7 weeks and we aren’t looking too good…
  • Being completely healed! 11  weeks (Holding on to hope…)
  • 22″ arms – almost there! Really, I am so close.
  • 3minute long side planks, oh hell yeah. – I’m up to 1 minute 20!
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Ten inches to go!

5.Hold a funeral

Invite all your running friends. Write a eulogy. Make terrible bland sandwiches on dry white bread and serve them with lukewarm milky tea from an ugly urn. Put all your running shoes in a pile and burn them, use stinky old gym gear to fuel the flames. Make sure you get the running friends to remove their shoes at the door, ‘as a mark of respect’. Secretly burn all of their shoes too. Spread the ashes from the shoes around your favourite running routes, at the gym, and at the track. Make sure you loudly refer to the ashes as your old boyfriend when you are doing this. It’s ok to let yourself grieve, you have lost mobility, independence, time with friends, and you have nothing to brag about on Facebook any more.

6.Meditate, don’t medicate

It’s very easy when you no longer have to get up at 5am to fit in a run, to sleep in until lunch time. It’s very easy to have another wine, when you think ‘Oh, I really don’t have a reason to be vertical before 10am’, and then as if by magic, you start reverting to your student days. It starts with one beer and quickly escalates to ladling cheap vodka and apple sours from a bucket. Lying in bed is helpful if you need to rest, but doing it hungover isn’t much fun. Do something more relaxing, like watching re-runs of Full House, reading a book or have staring competitions with your cat. Retail Therapy is also nice.

Amanda is modelling a new swimming cap and togs, what did cripples do before online shopping?

Amanda is modelling a new swimming cap and togs, what did cripples do before online shopping?

7. Reclaim your pre-running habits

As above, hello vino! Remember those people you use to stay in touch with before you started putting running first? Family I think I use to call them, and there was another one called Boyfriend. Get re-acquainted with them. Read a book.

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8. Stop telling the story

If I had a pre-2006 NZ 50 cent piece for every time someone asked me what happened, I’d sit on Oriental Parade with the sack of coins and throw them at the heads of the people running past.

‘What happened to your foot?’

‘I have a stress fracture in my pelvis

‘How did you do that?’

‘Running’

‘What? Did you run in to a pole or off a cliff?’

“Did little Benny Terry do that to ya?’- (followed by an exaggerated wink and a dopey laugh haw haw haw)

I then launch in to the reasons one can get a stress fracture, recovery time, getting stuck in door frames with my crutches and how nice the weather is outside, oh you just got back from running in it? WELL THAT’S FANTASTIC! GOOD FOR YOU! TELL ME MORE!

9.Learn a new skill

I have been doing, of all things, tutorials on how to paint my nails on Youtube. It never occurred to me that people have nice hands and nails because they spend time looking after them. I think running themed nails will have to be next…

10. Be patient

The feelings of hopelessness will fade, and one day you’ll wake up and realise that you haven’t even thought about running for a week. That week might not be the week that you were supposed to be at National Road relays, or any of the weeks you are working inside a gym, but that week will come. It might only come when you’re 89 and suffereing from memory loss, but it will come.

Have you ever had an injury? What helped you get through it? How many people did you murder? 


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Throwing a pity party, and cleaning up afterwards

I’ve thought a lot while running, about how much I love to do it, how rewarding it is, and how when you dedicate yourself to something so fully, how great the rewards are that you get in return. I’ve thought about how it’s helped me through depression, and changed me from that person who would hide in her room all day, to someone who runs outside in a crop top and posts pictures of her crotch on the internet. I’m so grateful for the ability to run, and I was so caught up in it that I never thought about what would happen when it was gone.

On Friday two weeks ago I went along to the physio. I’d had the X-rays, I’d sat through a vey lubey ultrasound in a variety of awkward positions, and every possibility of injury had been eliminated except for one thing, which was the only thing that it could be. It wasn’t the best news, but it wasn’t the worst

‘You have a stress fracture, most likely in your pubic rami. Mentally prepare yourself for not being able to run for the next six months.’

I picked this picture because the red makes it looks really sore.

I picked this picture because the red makes it looks really sore.

After delivering the news the Physiotherapist then did some release work on my right quad with needles. I feebly pretended my tears were because of the needling and electric pulses making my leg convulse, but it wasn’t. I was pretty devastated. The Physio handed me some racy yellow crutches with instructions not to put any weight on my right leg and off I hobbled.

People like to remind you that there are other things that suck more than not being able to run for six months, ‘It’s not like you have cancer’, ‘You can still wipe your own ass’, or ‘At least your birthday isn’t on Christmas Day and people only ever give you one present’. These are people that don’t run, who see running as evil, to be avoided, and who have never felt the joy of a bag of jelly beans melting through the pocket of their tights, or the wind blowing their spit in to their ear.

To the runners, you might as well have lost the entire leg. They offer their condolences, they know exactly how hard you worked to get your running to that level, and they know that feeling you chase that you’ll now miss out on until your body agrees that you can run again.

Technical stuff

To properly diagnose a stress fracture you need to get an MRI, as it won’t show on an X-ray until the bone starts to heal. Two weeks of yoga, spin class, Pump, and walking a few kilometres each day meant that my stress fracture was definitely NOT starting to heal. To get an MRI, you must see a physician (you can’t be referred to get one from a physio or GP). I went to see Ruth Highet, a well known Sports Physician in Wellington. I took an instant liking to her when one of the first questions she asked was ‘ What’s your PB for a 10km?’ None of this ‘Why do you run so much?’ nonsense, this was someone who I could relate to.

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See the white part on the upper left corner, that is the stress fracture

Ruth showed me my bones on the screen and said that if I had gone for one more run I would have completely fractured the bone, so I guess I am pretty lucky in that respect.

How does one get a stress fracture in the pelvis? There are many reasons, there may have been 120 reasons why I got one, here are a few contributing factors and I am sure all of these helped me to get my stress fracture.

  • Your running shoes aren’t right
  • Running style is not perfect
  • Your headband didn’t match your shorts
  • Too much pelvic thrusting. Wink. Cough. Elbow elbow.
  • Increasing your mileage too fast
  • You have a vagina (only females get these ones, lucky us!)
  • Poor or inadequate nutrition
  • Running 120kms a week

Ch ch ch ch changes

I have noticed changes in my body already, I FILL an A cup bra now! Badonk-a-donk. I have no visible abs any more, and my right leg is slowly shrinking and losing muscle definition with not being used. I’m beginning to look and feel squishy and lop-sided, like a pair of room temperature testicles.

I used to pride myself on munching down a giant bowl of porridge for breakfast, a foot long subway for lunch, then an entire pizza for dinner, and snacks, and pudding included. We went out for lunch on Saturday, and I had my first DNF in almost two years, I just couldn’t finish my fries. I felt so defeated, leaving that food there on the plate. Those perfect hand cut crispy potato fries with their spicy tomato sauce, lonely, and going cold, destined for the scrap bucket when they should be in mah belleh.

I have not dealt with my loss of mobility very well, and I feel really pathetic for it. Where did that strong person go? The one that could conquer mountains, the one that people told ‘You inspire me’, and why has she been replaced with this sad girl who cries and can’t finish her fries? It has been a challenge getting use to using crutches, and a few times I have thrown them away in frustration, only to have to crawl to get the dumb things back. I also get a little envious of people who can still workout, which is hard to avoid when you work inside a gym!

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I haven’t hit anyone with my crutches. Yet.

I think part of why I got so upset with being injured, is that I thought my happiness was directly tied to my running, and if I stopped, I would become depressed again. One day leaving the sports doctors I walked/ crutched out past a group of people playing basketball. They were all different shapes and sizes, some tall, some wide, some scrawny, and all giving each other absolute hell and having a damn good game, in their wheelchairs. Watching the little people in wheelchairs be sandwiched by the big ones and have the ball stolen from them, and seeing them keep playing with the same determination made me feel a whole lot better about my own situation, and I didn’t cry again after that.

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Yes, I did buy this dress to match the crutches.

What I can do now (2 weeks in to recovery)

  • Swim in the pool with a pool buoy only using my arms
  • Very isolated glute exercises
  • Side planks- my most hated exercise
  • Crunches on a bosu ball
  • Arms, every day. Arms.

What I am working towards

  • Cycling – in four weeks
  • Aqua jogging – four weeks
  • Losing the crutches – 2  weeks
  • Being completely healed! 11  weeks
  • 22″ arms
  • 3minute long side planks, oh hell yeah.

Happy recovery to me, happy recovery to me!