Saturday, July 26, 2014

Frog Hollow parkrun

Frog Hollow parkrun launched a couple of months ago and I finally found the time to visit this weekend! It took me less than 20 minutes to get there by car, so I'll probably head back there again next time I feel like a change from Westerfolds (although I still have other parkrun locations that I need to visit first!)

Frog Hollow parkrun is fairly easy to get to by car as it's just off the Monash Freeway on Belgrave-Hallam Rd, which is the first exit after the South Gippy (South Gippsland Freeway) if you're heading out from the city. Parking is limited to David Collins Drive as the parking area inside the Frog Hollow Reserve is used by the local rugby club that has its junior matches on Saturday mornings too. There's plenty of on-road parking and it's very close to the start, so it's not a problem at all.

This board was at the main entrance to Frog Hollow Reserve, but there's a later point where you can park and cut through the houses on David Collins Drive that is closer to the start/finish area

There are toilets, and I spotted that the rugby club's canteen was open at parkrun time but didn't find out any more at the time. I wasn't sure of the arrangement details between parkrun and the rugby club, so I just left it alone. The Frog Hollow parkrun crew have a marquee set up for their barcode scanner, and most parkrunners threw their jumpers under a table that had been setup inside just before moving over to the start line (a little further NE than the finish line).

There was a warm-up too. I don't participate in these things... neither did these two ladies!

Frog Hollow parkrun is definitely the flattest course I've run on - it's in a wetland area and the only "climbs" are on the return from the turn-around point as you come back under the freeway, and a short climb at the north-east corner of the lake which you taken on twice (once at the turn-off for the lake-lap, and the second time as you keep going towards the finish). If you're interested in what the Strava segment for this parkrun looks like, click here.

There are a few boardwalk sections at about 1km, 3km and during the lake-lap. We were warned that they may be a bit slippery as it had been raining that morning, but I didn't notice anything on my 400km-old Saucony Triumphs. 

During the first 2km I was wondering how windy the area might become, and if there were ever horrible head-winds (which I'd experienced on my second trip to Berwick Springs). There was a slight head wind on the way back on the northern side of the lake, so I experienced that twice, but it wasn't anywhere near as bad as that last time at Berwick Springs!

The wetland on the left is the "lake" that one goes around at the end before returning to this path again and heading towards the finish.

With Run Melbourne on the next day (and the kids event on the Saturday), numbers were relatively low. Only 26 parkrunners attended, which was their lowest attendance at the time. Frog Hollow parkrun is very close to Berwick Springs parkrun (they had a strong launch, were regularly hitting over 200 parkrunners from January to May, hitting over 300 twice in February), and I think it was started to help lighten the load at Berwick Springs. It seems to have worked as the Berwick Springs numbers are back to double figures and with only occasional 100+ attendances. 

Mornington Peninsula parkrun launched at the end of June - while it's not as close to Berwick Springs as Frog Hollow is, I can imagine parkrunners from that area would have been making the trip to Berwick Springs too. Pakenham parkrun is another in the "area" that is kicking off soon, and they had a trial run on the weekend. I'm assuming all these new parkruns have reduced the attendance at Berwick Springs, but I haven't really had a chat to anyone about it.

Frog Hollow parkrun #7 volunteers

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Oh dear

Weather + Phd madness + World Cup + illness = I haven't been the most frequent cyclist!

I went out and did the Mt Pleasant loop a few weeks ago after zero riding for a few weeks and survived well enough. 55km/700m was a good start. But since then I've only gotten on the bike twice - one 30km/400m and Sunday's 65km/900m. Except Sunday's ride was awful. I felt really bad after an hour and forced myself to keep riding despite how I was feeling.

In hindsight I should have eaten more before I left home. I had two slices of toast and a banana with a mug of coffee, watched Brazil lose to Holland, and then headed off. You see the problem? The almost-two hour break between food and riding. No wonder I felt like absolute crap! I ate during the ride, but I suspect the damage had been done during the football! If I think about this enough then I feel OK about the Rapha Women's 100 that's on the weekend. But I'm also concerned that perhaps it will happen again next week during the ride! :(

Also I had hoped to have had completed a lot more PhD work before the Rapha ride so that I could go out and enjoy it. Instead I'm struggling with some of my data and long patches of writer's block. It will be a long day (getting to Collingwood, coffee pre-ride, the ride, coffee halfway, lunch at the end), and all I can think about now is how much time I'll not be writing.

Is this the awful ride playing funny-buggers or my PhD being dead serious?

Saturday, July 12, 2014


I don't normally write about my Sjögren's - it looks like I've only used the Autoimmune woes label once before. I was diagnosed with Sjögren's after I was having an extreme reaction to the apartment I first lived in when I moved to Sydney. I think the problem stemmed from the apartment being towards the back of the building, where the balcony faced the air vents of the building. There was small garden and a few base-level apartment courtyards between the vent and our balcony (and a few stories too), but it meant that regular de-dusting of the apartment was required. My flatmate had previously lived in an apartment at the front of the same building and had had a different issue there - lots of black deposits on her balcony and window edges thanks to the proximity of the Western Distributor meant she could never really open the windows or use the balcony.

After a while I found that I was having near-constant hayfever symptoms, and eventually suffering blood noses. The GP referred me to an Ear-Nose-Throat specialist who found I was allergic to dustmites (joy) and have elevated Antinuclear Antibodies. He burnt off a few of the capillaries in my nose and sent me off to a rheumotologist. After a bit more bloodwork I found out about the Sjögren's, which was the reason why I had relatively low tears (which had been noticed by optometrists in the past), a dry mouth (yes, I also have crappy teeth thanks to the reduced saliva), and a dry nose that was prone to bleeding if irritated (dustmites at this stage, but I had also developed an aversion to extreme airconditioning at this point).

The symptoms that affect me the most regularly are the dry eyes and mouth. I like to wear contact lenses when I'm cycling as I enjoy being able to just flick my head around and checking traffic. Doing this with glasses requires a more extreme Beetlejuice style of head-flick (I can't see clearly without my glasses beyond ~20cm), and I can get headlight-double-vision if the lights penetrate my lenses as certain angles. I also prefer to wear contacts when running, but tend to be lazier about this so will occasionally just wear my specs. But I can't wear the contacts for too long as my eyes just become irritated (incidentally my brother hasn't been able to wear contact lenses for almost two years now as he tore one of his corneas removing them one day and it's taken a while to heal - he wears sports goggles now and I still laugh at him when I see him on TV, as do my friends who go to his matches and know he's my little brother).

The dry mouth means that I am constantly thirsty - which means lots of visits to the toilet. It also means that I consciously try to stop drinking water before I go for a run, and perhaps having just a half-glass before I head out. I don't seem to have this problem when cycling, but it may be because my bike rides are longer are because I end up completely encrusted in salt by the time I go home.

Maybe not this salt-encrusted, but there are noticeable white patches on my face, legs and any other sections of exposed skin.
Image from here.

Melbourne has lately been windy, and thus dry. So the nosebleeds have returned. I put up with it for a couple of weeks hoping that the weather would sort itself out before I my nose annoyed me too much, but I gave up the other day. Or gave in - I'm back to sticking sesame oil up my nose, although a version that is sold at pharmacies for this purpose (aka Nozoil). I find it a bit messy to use - the initial bit's fine (sticking it up your nose), but soon after I have little bits of excess oil dripping out of my nose. If I'm especially unlucky, enough of it enters the back of my throat that I am overwhelmed by the taste and I start gagging. I'm worried that one day I will actually throw up, because my teeth are fantastic as they are let's add stomach acid to the mix! Woohoo!


In case you're wondering how I knew it was the apartment that was the problem - I moved out to a new place in Randwick (closer to uni) a little while later and my symptoms cleared up very quickly. My flatmate stayed at the Pyrmont place for another couple of weeks before she moved on overseas, so I would occasionally go back to catch up for dinner or pick up a few things, and in less than 15 minutes I'd have a runny nose and teary eyes.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A day out with the Fly6

The Rapha Women's 100 is coming up in a couple of weeks - I'm definitely not prepared for it, but I know that I'll get through the day as long as I get some riding in before then. I've spotted what the course could possibly be (thanks Strava) and I know I need to get some hills in.

I'm lucky that I can actually access quite a few local bumps on roads with bike lanes - this is important because I am crap at climbing. It's partly my 13kg bike's fault, partly my 80kg body weight's fault and partly my fault for not actually getting all that much climbing into my legs. So I've started to venture north-east from home towards Research and Kangaroo Ground. I like that I can get a 30km ride in with about 450m of climbing and not require the use of a car. I'm just riding on my own, which is why I am appreciative of bike lanes and roads with shoulders.

Of course riding alone has its downsides, but I think I'll generally be fine. In past group rides I have been the one who has dealt with other people's flats, provided spare tubes, and fixed random mechanical issues (although there has not yet been anything too serious). I may have encountered some arseholes on the road during Breeze group rides, but I've been lucky so far when riding alone. That did not stop me from ordering a Fly6 combined rear tail-light and camera on Kickstarter, and my first ride with it captured zero stupidity. While I notice that cars often give me space or hang-back until it's safe to overtake me (and I flick my right hand as a thank-you when I notice), the footage the Fly6 captured really shows that the traffic around me is often fantastic and that I don't thank nearly enough of them for being courteous and safe!

Even on roads which have bike lanes, I often have to claim the main lane due to the presence of parked cars, skips, and debris (Melbourne's recent windy weather dislodged a lot of branches of all sizes). Some roads have only a shoulder, although it's not always possible to ride in that as the surface quality can be, well, quite shit or have a severe cambre. I really enjoyed watching the footage the Fly6 captured on these occasions as most vehicles gave me heaps of room - even when I was in the bike lane.

Parked car up ahead so I sat a little out of the bike lane. Overtaking car gives me HEAPS of room. ❤❤❤

No shoulder on this road, and cars are still being nice despite the double-lines. ❤❤❤

Aren't they lovely? ❤❤❤

Super-crappy shoulder, but no pressure from the traffic. ❤❤❤

A different crappy shoulder, still lots of love on the road. ❤❤❤

I am clearly in the bike lane here, but this car still moves to the outside of their lane when overtaking! ❤❤❤

No bike lane here, but there's still plenty of space when overtaking. ❤❤❤

This Camry just sat behind me for this section of Williamsons Road. ❤❤❤

This was another lurker who waited until they could change lanes to overtake me. ❤❤❤

And lots of space was given when in the dooring zone. ❤❤❤

The Fly6 is not intended to be a sports camera, but I think the image quality is good enough to share on occasion. It was school holidays at the time, so it was great to see some kids out and about on their bikes despite the grey skies and chilly wind.

I can also share this climb - I really like separated paths when going uphill as I don't have to worry about how crap I am at climbing. The paths are especially loveable if they're pretty like this section that goes through Alan Morton Reserve in Park Orchards and runs adjacent to Park Rd.

And here's a yappy dog for good measure.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Plans for July

Well June's done and July's here - I think I had a good second half of June with regards to running as I'm running regularly again after more or less completely falling off the running bandwagon. Not much cycling happened due to being sick, World Cup matches in the morning, and generally awful weather - combined rain and wind does not make cycling enticing. This will make the 100km of the Rapha Women's ride on July 20 interesting. I've taken a peek at the course and I definitely need to get some climbing into my legs - if I can get a bit more preparation done the whole day should be enough for the Strava Gran Fondo badge, which isn't something I've done since much earlier in the year.

So onto July - where I really need to keep up the running (three days a week) and get back into cycling regularly (bring on the hills!)

There's a hidden challenge to get my cycling going right now - the BBC Radio 6 Music Challenge, where you only need to ride 100km during the 11 day challenge period to pick up the badge. There are nine days to go in that, so there's plenty of time for you to join in. Later in the month is the Rapha Women's 100, and also the Rapha Rising Challenge. I didn't quite do enough for an earlier cycling climbing challenge and this one's longer - 8,800m of climbing over nine days!

I'm going to be using the Smashrun badges as my incentive to keep the running going and building. There are a few badges I can pick up in July (I actually picked up the OCD one on the 1st), and a few more that I can contribute to just by making sure my monthly total distance grows by a set amount. Essentially I'm going to try and complete at least 10 runs starting between noon and 2pm, and cover 90km for the month. If you're keen on joining Smashrun, using this link helps me earn a badge! :)

the hunted

To get this badge you need to visit Smashrun (while logged in) at least once a day for 30 days.
I had been working on this one since there were problems with the Nike sync and I started logging on each day until the syncing finally worked (which occurred after I contacted Nike Support on Twitter - @NikeSupport are pretty damn awesome IMO). I then kept on logging on daily in order to pick this badge up.
In it for July
To get this badge you run at least 10 days in July.
Straight forward as long as I run! 3 times a week should make this a shoo-in!
Lunch Hour
To get this badge you need to start your run between 12pm and 2pm on weekday. You can finish your run whenever you want.
It's winter. Running in the middle of the day shouldn't be a problem - I just have to remember to do it!
Easy runner
To get this badge you have to complete 10 runs in a month with a pace slower than 10:00/mi or 6:12/km, that's equivalent to 6mph or 9.66kph.
This one will be easy to achieve as long as I keep an eye on my tempo run warm-up/cool-down pace, and make sure that I keep my long runs at an easy pace.
Steep stairs
To get this badge you need to run at least 5 miles (8km) more each month 4 months. A month starting at zero isn't included in the stair count.
The first month for this series was April (43km), then May (56km) and June (73.1km). So I only need 81.1km in July to pick up this badge.

in progress

Long stairs
To get this badge you need to run a greater total distance each month for 6 months. You can increase by any amount however small, but a month starting at zero doesn't count toward the total.
My base month for this one was February (35km), followed by March (39km), and then April through to June had sufficient increases to count towards the Steep stairs badge. As long as I run the total distance required for the Steep stairs badge, then this one is fine.
Long/Steep stairs
To get this badge you need to run at least 5 miles (8km) more each month 6 months. A month starting at zero isn't included in the stair count.
This one is a continuation of the Steep stairs badge. So I need 81.1km for July.
Towering stairs
To get this badge you need to run at least 10 miles (16.1km) more each month 6 months. A month starting at zero isn't included in the stair count.
I ran my long run this week on Monday so that it counted for June to get this one going - using May as the starting point. This series has the largest step-size, so it ends up being the one that defines my July month total: 89.2km!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Fun times at Westerfolds parkrun

I'm starting to use my (almost) weekly Westerfolds parkrun as a training exercise where the aim is to run even splits despite the undulating terrain. All the other parkruns in the Melbourne area are quite flat as far as I know, so I think Westerfolds and its second-half hill is a great way to work on running strength - provided I don't start too fast and struggle up the hill!

On the weekend I intentionally went out at an easy (but not slow) tempo, hoping to run fairly even splits throughout and end up with a faster final half than first. The start is a bit difficult to control as everyone bolts and there's a steep descent down to the Yarra at the 1km mark. I focussed on my breathing in an attempt to ignore the runners ahead of me in case I pushed too hard to catch them. It definitely worked as I was slowly reeling them in without losing my rhythm or feeling too bad by the time I got to the top of the first hill at 2.5km.

At this point I spotted the people I usually run amongst mixed in with the other parkrunners ahead - Lesley, Evelien, Tim and his pram, Amanda, and finally Matt and Bram running together at the front end of the drawn-out pack. I stuck to my current pace during the false flat so that I could survive the precursor climb and still take on The Hill. Not pushing too hard up the first climb meant that I reeled in Lesley and Evelien on the false flat as they were recovering, Tim at the bottom of The Hill (because pram), and was on Amanda's tail at the top of The Hill at 4km. Hard work done, I just let my legs turn over on the run down to the bridge and got back into rhythm for the final climb to the end. My pace slowed from 4:45/km to 5:30/km during that bit, so I think I'll need to try and get into the habit of kicking to get the most out of this kind of parkrun-based training.

Run analysis by Smashrun
The white line is elevation, the colours and black shadow are pace.
I'm very happy with the splits although my first km was probably a bit too easy - it looks like I took a while to get going! I also scored a 17-second PB on the Climb to the Chalet Strava segment (which is the one that incorporates The Hill) and thus found myself back in the Top 10 on the leaderboard since I was briefly there for a few hours on March 15. My overall time was 26:37, but I've had three sub-26 runs this year on that parkrun course so I think I'll be able to speed up a bit without losing the even splits.

Although it was nice not to be falling apart at the end for once!
This is my "felt-good-during-ALL-of-the-run" face.
From the Westerfolds parkrun Event #37 album.