My Romance With Running

Stories about running


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Tassie Trail Fest Marathon*

How desperate would your situation have to be for you to suck on one of these toes?

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The Tarawera toes of Tom Lelievre

The third person to greet me upon arrival in Tasmania en route to the Tassie Trail Fest was the owner of the above feet. No need to ask Tom if he was a runner after seeing those. No need. Tom wasa

volunteer for the event; full of good advice on running marathons, resting and recovery, and what kind of milk to put in my coffee. I had to think of a way to repay him for his good deeds…

The Tassie Trail Fest is a three day celebration of all things trail running. Masochists came from as far as Wales, Antarctica, and Karori to experience the bush and the Blue Derby trails. Organised by Chris Ord from Tour de Trails and Trail Run Magazine, this year was the inaugural event and one that I have already permanently marked in my calendar. The festival begins with a marathon on the first day, a touch over 42.2km through the mountain bike trails in Derby.

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Entrance to the Blue Derby trails

I began my Tassie Trail Fest adventure armed with some sage advice from my friends, all of which would prove to be vital in getting me across that finishing line for the marathon, and it all served it’s purpose in different stages of the run

Your mind will give up 1000 times over before your body does! So when your mind starts to give up just remember your body can keep going!!

Some of the best advice I got for my first marathon is to make a pact with yourself to enjoy it! Go for it Amanda.

Go and kick Tasmania in the Lady Balls. You are impossibly strong and fast. Go well. Remember. Foot to the lady balls. It will suck, but you’re better than you think you are, so go fuck shit up…

It will be hard and you will want to give up. Think of all the things that motivate you like flying down the Polhill trail or making cool route art. It’ll be worth it in the end

Just remember you have an awesome tan.

I’ve never run a marathon before. I have run an Ultra, but now with two years more experience with running under my Spi belt I knew that running a shorter (long) distance is an entirely different beast.

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Second toilet stop with 13 minutes until race time

The start line was buzzing, anyone wearing a green bib had signed up for not only the marathon but a 14km, another half marathon, a further 14km night run AND a 2km Dash for Cash. Combined these runs had the title of Multi Day Madness and covered just under 100km in total. It blew me away that people were doing this by choice, (I had been gently nudged in to doing the Multi Day event by Chris).

The plan was to run this race at long run effort, take it easy, take no risks, make pact with myself to enjoy it, and have enough energy left to run the other 56km the following day. Gulp. 

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The lady I was chasing for a good 10km, she was awesome at the uphills

The first part of the race was a relaxed run through speedy single track that gave way to old unused forestry roads. I cruised along noticing the funny sounds of Aussie birds, the smell of eucalyptus, and the gum trees. There were large flat rocks to try and run across that I decided to walk over after a few near misses.

The first piece of advice I utilised was Your mind will give up 1000 times over before your body does!  I started to count the number of times that I wanted to quit, wanted to walk, or uttered a string of expletives (it only f#%!n counted if there were more than two). By the 17km mark I had only counted to three, so far so good!

Things got a bit more challenging after that. Around the 27km mark I started noticing these trees with wide holes in them that looked like big woody vaginas. They looked comfortable, if I could just get in there, if I could get back in to the womb, I could end this marathon and have a nap. Snap out of it Amanda it’s just a marathon, pull yourself together, stick yourself together like a cold cheese toastie and just keep running.

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Having fun, tired, could be on meth, pukana, 14km to go! Plz halp me.

Between 30-31km the trail looks like the moon. Grey green moss covers the floor, trees stripped of bark stretch up high on either side, the moonscape is a welcome boost as there is about 10km between aid stations in this section. Through the trees, standing on a rock were the most beautiful people I had ever seen. Peri and Simon were happy to see me at their aid station. I basked in their loveliness and filled up my bottles, ate some chups, got a fistful of gummy worms then jogged off.

What starts out as being a low point at 38km down the trails, can end up being a triumph once you work through the hard stuff and come out on top. Picture this; you’re going up yet another switchback, the climbing is slow and your focus doesn’t lift more than a few metres in front of your feet. The legs and the mind have given up (we’re counting) 16 times, three of those have been in the past 500 metres. Espresso love Gu? Yes please. It fights back as you try to squeeze it out, you shove the whole packet in your mouth then drag it out against your teeth to get every last sticky morsel.

Thanks for the gels new friend Tom, you’re a lifesaver! You found them at the last minute inside one of your trail shoes. Oh my god. His feet. His morbid looking toes touched that Gu packet. Do I have toe stuck in my teeth? I’ve run out of water again too how do I wash the Tom toe out of my mouth? *silent prayer*

People talk about hitting a wall at the 30km mark in a marathon, for this race that didn’t come for me until 40km. It was rough. I thought back to the advice from my friends that would carry me through, you have an awesome tan! No, that wasn’t it, try again. You are impossibly strong and fast. That’s it. Start believing it, if someone else thinks you can do it then put your head down and get it done.

It hurt a lot, it stopped being easy, I was tired and starting to stumble a little and there were no tree vaginas nearby to rest in. I just wanted it to be over. I thought about my running buddies Nick and Ayesha and our recent Sunday run, where I hit the wall, and how I got through those last few kilometres. Nick is making waffles! He has waffles ready for you at the finish line! Run to the waffles Amanda!!

I caught up with another runner at the final aid station, John Schruinga, and we pulled each other through the final few kilometres. With the finish line in sight someone yells at us to turn left as there is another 500m loop to go. The ‘I want to give up/ string of expletives’ count quickly increases from 16 to 24.

I finished 4th female home in 4.34.15, check out my run on Strava, and the full results here.

Marathon* has an asterisk because it was not a standard measurement of Marathon, it was 44km. Plus almost an extra km because- Chris Ord.

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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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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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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