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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I mentioned in a previous post that I was sure I would see the death of my big toenail a few months after Tarawera. I’m always right, and I was right, as always, about this.
My toenail did die a very slow, dirt and unidentifiable particle collecting, undignified death. There is no getting around how ugly my toes look right now. The nail is making a slow comeback; it’s going through an uneven, lumpy Franken-toe awkward puberty stage right now. My feet weren’t ever model material, but with the added element of missing toenail making a return, something had to be done.
I’ll show you ten ways that you can disguise a missing toenail and have pretty, socially acceptable, non-vomit-inducing feet. If you haven’t been lucky enough to have this happen, keep a few tricks up your compression sleeve for when it inevitably does.
What missing toenail?
Click to zoom in for more yuck
Covering the offending digit needn’t be a chore. You don’t have to put in too much effort really, depending on the circumstance, the occasion, and who you think might see your toe it can be a very simple fix. Let’s begin with a few very basic ideas.
1. Wear socks with bananas on them
Socks are unisex, and come in an array of colours, patterns and textures
Socks are the obvious solution, but what if you’re going to the beach or the swimming pool and your latex swimming socks don’t match your outfit? I have a solution for you!
2. Paint your toenails
Sexy red nail polish. You can’t even tell that one toenail is a jagged half grown mess
Nail polish is fairly cheap, comes in lots of colours, and will stay on your toe until the nail eventually grows out if you are too lazy/busy/carefreeYOLO to remove it, it’s hardy stuff. It sticks to anything light coloured or expensive but will not stick very well to skin, and if you try to paint a ‘fake’ nail on to your skin patch it will only rub off after a couple of days.
3. Add glitter to mask any imperfections
4. Add a little more glitter
Very glitter! So Sparkle. Wow.
If the toenail flaw is still a bit obvious, you can always go a step further. Apparently you can just put makeup on your feet, this would also do away with your sock tan. Can you do smokey eyes on feet?
5. Pretend a child painted your toenails for you
My imaginary child painted my toenails last night, soooo cute!
When disguises won’t work, the next step to take is to create a diversion. Draw attention away from your gammy toenail by getting people to focus on something else, like how strange you are.
Some of these ideas are only workable in very specific scenarios and cannot be used in everyday life.
Out for a bare foot breakfast? Try some Toe Jam.
Someone’s been through duty free!
Roast, baked, mashed, so versatile
9. Toepographical map
Bet you barely noticed my missing toenail here.
10. Eskitoe Pie
For those ‘Can’t beat Wellington on a good day’ days
I hope that you find at least a few of these useful, and if you have your own ideas on how to disguise those runner’s feet and missing toenails, please comment and let me know.
Note: Because I am injured, less time on feet (8+ hours a week) means more time on my hands, hence I have been in many different social situations requiring toe disguises.
I took away a few lessons from this time photographing my feet
If you have a fractured pelvis, take off your beige pants before painting your foot green or it will be difficult to wash said foot in the shower
Acrylic paint washes of skin, or toenail, not patches of toenaily skin.
Chocolate, glitter, and jam also stick to toenaily skin and are very hard to wash off
Don’t tell people that you ate the toest, they will think you are yuck. (Why waste perfectly good peanut butter?)
Ice cream on your toes for five minutes will make them numb and give you chilblains
I read the disclaimer and was pacing the office feeling really nauseous, muscle necrosis? Renal failure? Helicopter rides sounded fun though, and even if it was a $1000 ride with a broken limb, there was a small chance I would be conscious and the weather would be clear enough to get a great view over the lakes while hallucinating. Not wanting to miss out on what was obviously a bargain, I got out my credit card and clicked ‘Enter’.
Training for this event went fairly smoothly, there just wasn’t enough of it.
I defaulted to doing my favourite trails and hills, lots of speed and elevation but no real longer runs. My longest was 3.5 hours, and while I did quite a few 30-34km runs it didn’t prepare me for what lay ahead. I sprained my ankle which caused a few issues but I was really good at letting it heal. I did learn a few valuable lessons through training that I took with me to the race though, the first being that when you run a lot and are burning thousands of calories, you get a wee bit peckish, and you hit walls.
My favourite piece of kit
Race day attire starts with yellow tights, yellow is happy, fast, attention seeking and bananery.
From previous inner thigh massacres on long runs I steered well clear of shorts. I usually only wear a crop top because my arms chafe (too muscular they say) but when choosing between that and losing all the skin from my lower back like I did during the Grunt, I chose armpit chafe. My race plan was to cruise through 60km, listen to some Fat Freddy’s, admire the forest and just trot out of the bush casually to the finish in under 8 hours. It didn’t really happen that way.
Nothing compares to the start line at the Vibram Tarawea Ultra, it was beautiful. Walking in to the Redwoods forest at 5.30am there are headlamps blinking through the tall pines, the start is illuminated and people in bright colours are gathering in anticipation. The start is like the best dream you’ve ever had, and you wake up from it abruptly a few hours later with wet pyjamas, torticollis and a cat on your face.
Gemma, Amanda, Ben, Kim & Yulia
The count down had the air of excitement of New Years Eve, calm before the storm if you will… As the start gun went we all filtered through and became a glittering path of head torches, this was also when we realised we should have seeded ourselves a lot better, we were about half way back through the field. We had to walk for a good 15 minutes which was a bit frustrating when you have just tapered for a week and want to beat a cyclone to the finish line.
I ran with Yuliya and Gemma for the first 20km and it was a lot of fun! We went fast through the technical softer trails after the Blue Lake Checkpoint, smiling the whole way and having an awesome time bounding through the trees.
Just after the Millar Road Aid station at 22km I hit a bit of a wall and felt terrible. I had a little fizzy Nuun tablet in a bottle that I poured water out of my pack in to, I tried drinking the spastic foaming mess and it was like a sherbet wheel exploding in my hand. From the 30mls I did get down I felt a lot better after five minutes and kept running, now I was by myself.
Around the 30km mark the elites started to pass by me, it’s so cool to see and ridiculous at the same time that anyone can move that quickly over rutted clay tracks and tree roots, in the rain, up hills! Sage Canaday was already quite far ahead of any other moving creature and confirmed that yes, Yellow is the fastest colour to race in.
I ran out of water and fuel around 34km in on my way down the hill. My quads still have recurring nightmares about the Grunt so I ran down slowly with little steps as not to thrash them and render myself unable to run flat. At the Okataina aid station the volunteers were amazing, taking my pack, refilling the water and making sure I had everything I needed. Greig my Personal Trainer/Jesus miraculously appeared and came to help too and I communicated through a series of blinks and sniffs that I needed more gels and food.
My friend Dan ran with me for the small out and back part of the course in a huge poncho and talked, he is a great talker and perhaps could write jingles for radio if he isn’t keen on Engineering any more. He told me to say to myself ‘Running is tough but Amanda is tougher!’ I thought that was a shitty jingle because I didn’t feel very tough but as it was the first and only one anyone has written for me I ran with it (pun).
Leaving Okataina I walked up most of the hill, moaning, and thrusting like a cheap porno to try and tackle the growing pain in my hips. The only thing that made me feel better was seeing people coming down and thinking, you still have to come alllll the way up, suckers.
45km in to the race
When you’re running so far you need to celebrate the little milestones; 35km- furthest I’ve ever run! 42km, a marathon, 50km, only ten more to go!
When my Garmin beeped to tell me I was at 50km I got a renewed burst of energy, for about 500m and then began the longest slowest 10km of my life. I walked at any slight uphill and let gravity take me down hill. My stomach was painful from being so dehydrated that it hurt when I run. I ran off the side of the track and tried to pee and there was nothing! I was terrified that Paul Charteris would emerge from behind a punga, misinterpret my straining face and tell me I wasn’t cool for pooing on the trail. I pulled my pants up to an acceptable height just in time to see Jo Johansen pass me looking strong and determined.
I got really pissed off with myself because every time I did start running my legs felt strong and I could make it up the hills easily, I myself just could not find the mental strength to keep running. I had run out of water again, eaten everything I had with me, and it took so much effort to convince myself not to sit down in the rain like a sad puppy and lap water from a puddle.
Having the time of my life
One of the course marshalls on a mountain bike rode with me for about a kilometre around the 55km mark, I think he was worried I would fall over with all the whimpering I was doing. It was great to have company after being alone for so long and made me run a lot more than I would have done.
At the final aid station I got some much needed water and soggy pretzels that had retained enough pretzel quality to suck any remaining moisture from my mouth and turn in to dry wall, then it was an easy 3km on road to the finish. I was going so slowly another woman passed me but I didn’t care. Until I realised we had 500m to go, no way I’m letting her beat me. After jogging 58.5km it was a 500m sprint to the finish line, always finish with good form they have cameras there.
I finished with an official time of 7.17.59, 26th overall in the ‘short course’ and 9th female.
I went to the first aid tent to get warm and stare at Sage’s socks-with-scuffs combination then leaned on Ben until I got back to the car and promptly burst in to hysterical tears. So many months of training, hard work, and one very long day in the rain had come to a close.
Yulia came 5th and the lovely Gemma was 4th
What I learned from this race
It’s a lot of effort growing new skin after every run, I need to buy a vest to replace my evil MacPac/ vege peeler
Train for the distance, it’s a mental thing and your skinny-jeans ripping quads won’t help you endure anything
Use the aid stations even if you have a full kit with you, your internal/ external organs will thank you
Banana flavour Hammer gels should be called ‘vending machine cheesecake from a country that doesn’t eat dairy flavour’
Put your fizzy electrolyte things in water the night before the race so fizzing is done in a controlled environment
If you run to protect one muscle group, you shall be handsomely rewarded with intense pain in another
Buy shoes a size bigger to run in, I am pretty certain that before we celebrate the rebirth of JC next month we will mourn the death of my left big toenail
Seed yourself optimistically, everyone else does!
I’ll definitely be back next year, stronger, wiser, and fitter. I’m still buzzing from what an awesome experience it was running with passionate people from all walks of life and ranging from athletes to beginners and 81 year old legends. Paul Charteris the race organiser is one amazing man and I feel so privileged to be a part of the trail running community!
The Tarawera Ultra is just over a week away, and it seems ridiculous that right now I am mentally preparing more for not running this race than I am for running it, the thought of missing out is terrifying to me!
If you have seen me this week you may have been subject to a tantrum. Not being able to exercise makes me an irrational a-hole. I realise now that the world isn’t ending, nobody is going to die, and there are plenty of other races that I can enter this year if I can’t do this one. I’ve apologised to Ben for being a brat, to Hinano for saying I hoped that a Lion bit off her legs because she can run and I can’t, and I am making plans for how I can be a great support person on the sideline.
If you’re a good kid the week before Christmas, Santa will forget that you pushed the trampoline through the biggest window in the house trying to block out the sun and gave your brother his first black eye. Running should be the same right? I have been doing everything right for the past week and I feel like this means the past six months of never getting a massage, not stretching properly and completely overdoing it should be discounted.
I have been walking around with K- Tape racing stripes on my legs, missing long runs, eating heaps of cookies, and I even went to get acupuncture yesterday. I don’t really like needles but if it means I can do what I love then it is worth it. When I mentioned to the acupuncturist that I am planning to run 60km across trails in ten days time, she gave me a Britney look.
You think it’s a good idea to run 60km on that ankle?
After reading Eat and Run, I have no reason to believe that I can’t run hundreds of kilometres with ribbons tied around my feet in place of shoes, with my only sustenance coming from chia seeds stuffed in to my eyelids. My mind believes that I can run for days and exist on dried apricots and peanut butter dinners. My body says otherwise. I get so exhausted from training that sometimes I fall asleep on the floor after my run, or just cry like a baby because I’m overtired.
The ‘Harden up’ mentality is alive and well among trail runners, the acupuncturist would stick needles in her eyes if she read some of the conversations I have read.
‘I ran 210km on a torn calf’
‘You think that’s bad, I broke my arm during the Kepler when I tripped over a Takahe. Still finished.’
‘When I was running the Bedrock a boulder fell on me and I had to sever my arm with the jagged edge of a Gu Chomps packet. I kept running and got a course record.’
I may have embellished a little, but you get the point. All of this makes me think a little niggly achilles might as well be a paper cut. But you need to think about the bigger picture, is one race, on one day, out of the 365 days I could be running worth doing permanent damage to your body?
Is being among the best athletes in the world at the sport you love, running the same course as them, seeing all your running friends, making new ones, and drinking in the spectacular views across 60kms of bush really worth not being able to run/walk properly for a few weeks? I’m not sure yet!