My Romance With Running

Stories about running


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Luxmore round II

When the running is good, the blogging gets shelved because who cares about anything aside from your rippling leg muscles and amazing tan when you’re at your peak fitness in the middle of summer. BEHOLD MY DEFINED CALF MUSCLES!

When you get one strained adductor, two sprained ankles, put your back out then get a chest infection it means no running, no biking, no swimming with your arms (or legs), no doing weights, no anything. The silver lining is that you have more time to write your blog and your boobs grow back (ever so slightly). Not enough for a boobie photo, but enough to wear a bra at the very least.

It’s a month coming but here’s a bit about my last trail run race in the deep south, the Luxmore Grunt.

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Frasers Beach in Manapouri, on the way to the race

It only just occurred to me that I’ve never run the same race twice, the Luxmore Grunt is the first. I had no brother to challenge me this year. No illusions as to what to expect on the course, no doubt who would be able to beat me either as the race previews were up on Backcountry Runner. I wanted to win the race but the report identified several high-class beeches including course record holder Shireen Crumpton that would be steaming through the beech trees making short work of the hills. That’s what happens when races get popular, they draw in some pretty amazing athletes.

So… I reset my goals

  • Place in the top five
  • Run under 2.5 hours
  • Don’t fall over
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Figure 1. A couple of amazing athletes. Outfit definitely not on point here. Huge regrets about adding green in to the usual yellow mix.

The night before the race I was staying with my brother at Whare Creek. Where’s that you ask? Here is a helpful map. The internet can see Whare Creek but Whare creek can not see the internet. Lack of internet meant I couldn’t troll people in Youtube comments to let off some steam before the big day so I had to take this pent up belligerent illiterate stream of obscenities with me out on to the trails.

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It’s right there in the middle

Being the social b-skins that we are my brother John and I went to the Manapouri Pub beforehand and had a pint with the locals. After my first pint hit me I realised then that I don’t get nervous about races like I use to and could happily sit here and strategise over a few more. Race strategy for this year was to run faster on the flats, run up the entire hill and take it easy coming down, like, not face-planting would be a great start.

THE RACE
The first 5km was easy, but I was sitting in about 8th place until just before the hill and wondering how with such a good training build up I was sitting so far back in the field. I had to remind myself to run my own race, and not worry about people passing me or people still ahead.

I put the speedy starters down to inexperience and told myself with a smirk that they can enjoy their 20 minutes of glory before I take it from them on the hill. I made sure my breathing was light and my stride was long when I overtook them; make it look like I’m finding it easy when the only thing spurring me onwards is the thought of demoralising a fellow competitor. ‘Making friends is for the finish line’ says race Amanda.

THis cat does not speak to me at all. Cats can't talk

There is a reason cats can’t talk

My newly inflated ego carried me all the way up Mount Luxmore, only stopping high up as the trees began to thin because it got so cold I had to put my thermal back on.

This year the Men’s race leader Tane Cambridge came past me before I even broke the bush line. Either I’m going very slow or he is going extremely fast. It’s not really an either/or scenario as both were correct. Alpine air greeted my nipples with a tweak as I ran through the low tussocks and on the board walk towards Luxmore Hut. Shireen came back past me leading the race followed by the other speedy women, I was way too far behind to make up any places now and was in 6th.

I took it easy enough down the steep downhill because I wanted to be able to run the last flat 5km at a decent pace and not repeat the painful 6 minute kms of last time I raced it. Even with holding back a bit I passed one more female. Yusss. Top five Amanda you bee-a-uty! Now just stay upright until the finish. Further down I passed another woman who was walking and limping. What do I do now?

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Is she in the race? I wonder why she is walking?

Is she walking because she is tired? I smell weakness. Is this a trap?

Oh no she is injured!

Oh helllll yeah, another one down!

I better stop and see if she needs help

I better leap and click my heels when I go past to show just how strong my ankles are

That sucks, an injury so close to the finish she might have placed top three

This rocks, picking up a place so close to the finish line! Pew pew pew see you later!

I yelled out to ask if she was ok as I approached so that I had time to hear her yell an answer back without breaking my stride. Several other people would have passed her already, she was able to walk AND we were close to the finish line. Justified.

The final flat part of the run was easy this year and I managed to overtake a few men in the final kilometres. Again, motivated by imagining how they would feel to be so close to the finish and to have someone who had so poorly chosen their outfit overtake them making it look ugly, but easy.

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Going in for a hug.

I finished fourth female and 14th overall in 2.28.47. Full results here. The women’s race was won by Lizzie Wesley Smith in 2.18.24 with Shireen Crumpton in second and Sarah Douglas third.

Dad was at the finish line to greet me with a huge smile peeking out below his Ridgeline polarfleece uniform and hands caked in mud and dried blood from that mornings’ hunting exploits. Mum was a lot cleaner and had a little purple bag full of drinks and snacks which was exactly what I needed.

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The posture of a jelly bean. Proud parents look on.

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The green does look ok here and enhances my tan. Next time I’ll try a combination of green and black. green might even be my new colour now.

I went and had a beer in the lake and iced my legs and discovered that lake beers are right up there with shower beers. Mum had forgotten where she had parked the car. She actually said ‘It’s near some trees Amanda.’ Please refer to earlier image of Whare Creek to get an idea of how many trees there are in the area.

Looking at my splits from the race I definitely need to work on running up hill, I’m really not great at it. The scenery in Fiordland is beautiful and it’s well worth the trip in to Western Southland if you want to run a race with stunning scenery hidden behind clouds that you’ll have to google image search later on to know what you are supposed to be bragging about.

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In the bush near Lake Monowai

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What missing toenail?

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?

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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 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

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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

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Ruby Slippers!

4. Add a little more glitter

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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

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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.

6. Toest

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Out for a bare foot breakfast? Try some Toe Jam.

 7. Toeblerone

Someone's been through duty free!

Someone’s been through duty free!

8. Potatoes

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Roast, baked, mashed, so versatile

9. Toepographical map

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Bet you barely noticed my missing toenail here.

 10. Eskitoe Pie

For those 'Can't beat Wellington on a good day' days

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


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Tarawera Ultra Marathon- my first Ultra

Congratulations!  

You are entered in the 2014 Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon. You are awesome. 

On the 31st of October I saw a post on Facebook from Paul Charteris;

‘Today is your last chance to enter the Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon at the early bird rate!’

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

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.

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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.

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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

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

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.

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I finished with an official time of 7.17.59, 26th overall in the ‘short course’ and 9th female.

Full results here.

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

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!


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‘Just’ the Grunt

Most races have a few options as to which distance you can do. Anything less than the largest one and people will say ‘I’m JUST doing the xxx’. Just? You’re just running a 10km? You’re just doing 21? In December, I just did 27.

My younger brother, after what must have been some deep thought processes, txt me at 4am one Sunday morning and said ‘Let’s do the Grunt’. He’s always been the sporty Broughty, I’m more decorative, and I like to think I’m the smart one. I demonstrated this intelligence by challenging my 90kg, 1.85m fit-for-life little brother to this race. ‘Loser buys dinner he said. And drinks.’ It takes a fair bit of food and drink to fuel Willy, and not being a fan of foliage I knew losing to him meant paying for one, perhaps two steaks and quite a lot of the amber liquid. I was not going to let him have this easily.

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Entries to the Kepler Challenge and Luxmore Grunt open at 6.30am on the 6th of July, five months out from the actual race. It sells out within a few minutes so if you don’t get your ass out of bed at 6am that morning, you aren’t going to get a place. With the help of Ewa from WoRM I managed to get an entry to the Grunt, and William made the wait list.

GOALS FOR THIS RACE

  • Beat Willy
  • Run it sub 3 hours
  • Get a top ten placing
  • Don’t fall over

For the next five months my sole focus was this event, I had to learn how to run on trails rather than road. Despite being surrounded by hills I didn’t even know where I could run. Going from flat to hills, and tarmac to tree roots and mud was a big challenge for me, and it hurt in almost every place imaginable.

The weekend of the race Willy had none of the required kit except for shoes. Casual as. ‘Have you trained William?’

Twas the night before Kepler

Twas the night before Kepler

‘Yeah, nah. I went for ten runs.’ If I base this figure on exaggerations of my own training, he went for three runs.

On race day at 6.30am I met my family at the control gates, warmed up a little then went to the start line to make intimidating faces at the other runners. My plan was to run the first flat 5-6km at a 4.45 pace because this is what I settle in to on a long run, run and walk up the hill to save a bit of energy, come down the hill fast then hold 5min kms until the end.

The first part went to plan, Louisa Andrew was so fast and disappeared in to the trees very quickly. My legs were so fresh they felt like jelly, after training on sore legs so much it was like I had no feeling in them at all. That would come later, don’t worry. I walked and ran up the hill and the guys around me told me I was second female, I was pretty stoked but still annoyed at myself for not being able to keep running up that hill, and Melissa Clarke passed me at about half way.

It was a a mental challenge going up the hill but as soon as I got above the bush line and out in to the open it was like the race really started. The leading runners were just starting to pass me on their way back down and seeing them flying down the hill was a huge motivation. The views at this part of the track are epic but I didn’t stop to look. At the aid station at Luxmore Hut (half way point) they told me I was two minutes behind second. The board walk at this point is too narrow to comfortably fit two runners passing each other, so I just ran at people with the aim of them knowing that we both needed to turn side on at the right moment to pass safely. It worked for the most part.

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William was coming up the hill now and wasn’t far behind me, I was hitting two out of four goals at this stage so I decided I should fall over to give myself a new challenge. I tripped and fell gracefully on to the gravel, like a feather duvet blanketing a litter of fluffy kittens, breaking nothing and only managing to graze my hands, legs, stomach, shoulders and elbows and hit my head. Now I felt meaner and looked meaner, so I had to start running meaner.

It was so great on the downhill passing people coming up and hearing them cheer you on. Positivity and smiles were directly proportional to how far up the hill people were, the further down I got, the less well received my ‘keep going’s and other generic running chats were. Toothy grins were replaced by half-assed smiles, then one raised eyebrow; and eventually a look of desolation, pain and terror.

It got nice and quiet running through the bush on the down hill, I like to think I look like a stallion charging down the trail, wind in my mane, powerful legs thundering along. Alas I think it was more of a new born foal sort of run. I caught up with Melissa about ¾ of the way down and galloped past. If I could have given myself a high five a this point I would have, it was a great feeling.

I saw my friend Samdup just as we hit the flat and this is when my legs really woke up. They say it hurts when you get off the hill and they aren’t lying! He egged me on and told me to keep up with him and it just wasn’t happening. My Garmin also said I had run 18km rather than 21km which was a little demoralising. 5min kms went to 6min kms and there was no end in sight. You can hear the loud speaker on the wind at points but the trees hide everything and it 1471760_493835484065039_412801370_nseems like forever!

I ran clear of the trees near the finish and some local kids gave me hi-fives, lucky I don’t wipe my nose with my hand when I run, right? Right. It was so good to see Ben, Mum, Dad, and Ben’s hairy friends at the finish line all cheering for me. They gave me hugs me at the finish with congratulatory stinging patting on the back in the places I had no skin left after my pack had chaffed it off.  I came in 20th place overall, and second female with a time of 2.34.17, Willy got 3.01.30 and 60th overall, see the rest of the results here.

The big highlight for me in running this race was seeing so many people I knew cross the finish line and achieve something great. I am so proud of my brother for running 27km up and down a mountain with hardly any training, and even more impressed that he wants to enter again next year.

Second Place trophy

Second Place trophy

To recap on my goals;

  • I beat my brother and am now in contention for the title of the sporty one
  • Ran 20 minutes under my goal time
  • Came in the top ten females
  • Took a fall but no scars! #WIN

See you at the start line in 2014 🙂

*** I forgot to mention, Willy made no dinner purchases that night. Mum and Dad came to the party and bought me dinner at Te Anau’s best restaurant The Redcliff Cafe. The incredibly good looking and musically talented owner Megan with the help of Gemma sung ‘We are the Champions’ to me when they brought out my food! 🙂