Thursday, May 14, 2015

Point Cook parkrun

The weather we've been having in Melbourne this week has not made going out for a run all that much fun. While I typically went out for a run whenever I felt like it, I am now trying to coordinate my running with other people. It's been an interesting experience as the most organised of those runs is also the hardest (trail running in the Dandenongs) and so I really need my weekday runs to contribute to base fitness in a way that the hilly trail runs can't as I'm the slowest in that group and so it's more of a threshold effort, and anaerobic in parts!

Meet the elevation profile of a "cruisy" run with the Dandenong Trail Runners. Note my heart rate. No Maffetone training here!
Image via SportTracks.

My weekdays runs this week were a bit hit-miss. I wanted to head out yesterday with a new running buddy, but it was raining heavily in the morning. In hindsight we might have been fine if we met up at 7am - although I would have been hit with hailstones on the way home. It's something I've encountered when on the bike and wasn't a problem, but I don't typically wear a helmet when running.

This evening I met up with my other running buddy for our laps around Gardiners Creek Reserve, which is a very easy flat 3km loop (although we run in the opposite direction to that Strava segment). I had planned to turn up a little earlier to squeeze in a couple of laps of the bumpy "Box Hill South loop" so that I could get a little bit of climbing into my legs, but had to run an errand beforehand and I only managed one sneaky solo loop. However, after one lap of Gardiners Creek Reserve and discussing the bumpy loop we headed that way instead of a second flat loop. It was a bit too dark after that to repeat it, but I am happy with my net run of 8.6km and 84m. It's not enough to assist me with the Dandenongs runs (Saturday was 10.8km and 472m!), but it's better than last week's 6.2km and 23m for the same run!

After the travel to faraway parkruns (or not, if I consider that weekend that I didn't go to Inverloch parkrun), I was looking forward to shorter trips in the car. While I enjoy my car-time as I get to catch up on podcasts and sing crappy songs to the top of my lungs, it does take a lot of time and concentration (which is perhaps the most tiring thing of all).

First, there are no photos from this day as I fell during a run the day before and my right shoulder copped most of the momentum. I suspect my goalkeeping training kicked in as my body decided to go with the momentum, stretch out and land on my side. The upside of this was no damage to my palms or risk of a wrist break as I didn't use my hands to break my fall (although I picked up three very small knicks on my left thumb and right pinky). The downside was the 4cm diameter circle of skin that was rubbed raw on my right shoulder and the soreness from absorbing all that momentum. I was also lucky that it was a cold day and so the shoulder was clothed - so I didn't get any nasty footpath/road debris in the wound. It still hurt a LOT in the shower, but at least I didn't have to scrub it clean.

The point is, my shoulder was too sore to comfortably lift my upper arm so I didn't bother bringing the camera. Actually, any movement was painful despite the dressed wound so when I made a comment about time to brave taking my jumper off I was misunderstood to be complaining about the chilly weather that morning!

Aeroplane arms was painful - and I couldn't even do them properly.
Image from Point Cook parkrun's Facebook page.

On first impressions, Point Cook parkrun is a flat course. This is true for about 4km, upon which you then realise that the finish line is actually a climb! It's not much, but it's enough to work tired legs. There's also a small kicker about 20m from the finish line in case you have anything left in the legs. And I have no complaints about the positioning of the turn-around point, it's in a flat section so it's not too difficult to get back to pace after slowing.

The satellite imagery may be a bit out of date, but the elevation is mostly correct.
Image via SportTracks.

The course is mostly concrete, which I don't personally love to run on, and there is very little shelter out on the course—it's an advantage of going on a parkrun tourism binge during a calm autumn period! Make sure you bring a hat and sunglasses if you drop by during summer or on a hot day (and suncream if you're very sensitive - the sun may not be that harsh at 8am but all I think about is how reflective concrete can be), and save some strength for any headwinds on windy days.

Amenities at Point Cook parkrun are fantastic with plenty of parking due to its location at a local sporting complex, along with an undercover area for barcode scanning, sorting and bag storage. There are also toilets at the undercover area, and a COFFEE VAN! It would have to be the most perfect parkrun I have been to... at least for a calm autumn morning.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Puffing Billy's 34rd Great Train Race

On Sunday I lined up with over 3400 others to take on Puffing Billy in the Great Train Race. Although I was only ever going against Puffing Billy 2, the second train, which beat me by 2:28 last year. I was hoping to improve my time from last year to catch the second train this year—and while I knew it would be difficult to do due to a lack of training because of the hamstring, I hadn't suspected that the train would be over 10 minutes faster than last year!

While I knew of multiple running buddies that were taking on the train, I only bumped into Brett from my now-dead Mullum Mullum trail runs before the race. Oh, and I saw the guy who lives across the street from me* multiple times. I also spotted Teslafox (he has a real name, which I know, but he'll always be Instagram/Twitter's Teslafox until I meet him properly) before the start, who sadly was not wearing the suit he had worn the previous day to Lillydale Lake parkrun's first birthday. 

As always, the start-line was packed and I went to the back to join the tail-ending pink (although the bibs were more of a purple/magenta, tom-ae-to, tom-ah-to) group. Eventually the race started and we all made out way through the start line. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. It was busy and my time at 1km was only 5:43. Given most people start fun-runs too quickly I knew that we were only going to slow down, and it was going to be difficult to get to and hold the steady 5:30 pace I had hoped to run at in the crowd.  Having a troublesome hamstring and a lack of conditioning meant I couldn't afford small accelerations to get myself out of traffic, and so I was just going to go with the traffic.

I didn't need my watch to realise I was behind on the trains. Even as early as 1.4km, which is where the railway track crosses Belgrave-Gembrook Road via a scenic bridge, I knew that I was behind. Last year I went under that bridge as the first train was crossing, this year it was nowhere in sight (or even within earshot). Similarly I didn't need to slow down at the Selby-Aura Road crossing (3.8km) as there was no stuck-at-the-crossing-waiting-for-the-train-to-pass traffic jam this year. It was completely clear. At the end of the day we found out Puffing Billy 1 was also significantly faster this year, so I don't think I ever had a chance of being stopped by it at that crossing this year. The Strava Comparison tool does show that I was 39 seconds behind on my time last year by that point (and that difference blew out to 50s at 5km, which is significant as the climbs begin at about the 4.5km mark).

50s behind at 5km! Although needing to go by every water stop this year as my Sjogren's was flaring also didn't help.
Image from Strava.

I can only attribute my slow start this year to the seeding process. Last year I started in the third (blue) group, and this year I was in the fourth and final one. So I had to go with the bulk flow until the numbers started to dwindle on the first hill, although I was still stuck most of the time. While I couldn't accelerate on the flat because of my hamstring, I couldn't accelerate on the hills because of gravity! I just had to slow down, wait for a gap, and then revert to my normal climbing pace. I did take comfort in the heavy breathing around me, while I was still feeling fine.

It was on this hill that I spotted my first familiar face. Actually, I noticed a familar shade of blue on someone's cap, and as I overtook it I confirmed that it was Luke from the Half Marathon Club Meetup! His blue cap was always his this-is-who-you-need-to-look-for message on the meetups. I said hello on my way past, but he looked a bit confused. It may have been that he didn't expect me there, or that he was busy working his way up the hill... or that he couldn't place me without the five30runners shirt I had worn to the Albert and Maribyrnong parkrun Meetups! 

The next person I spotted was Brett from Westerfolds parkrun, who overtook me last year on the first proper hill that starts at 4.5km. This time I overtook him on the approach to the same hill and told him he'd probably see me again on the actual hill. He said he hadn't trained for the run this year, so it was probably unlikely. I doubted it as I was going to have to walk up part of that hill, but he was right in the end! I didn't see any more familiar faces on course after Brett.

As expected, I needed to walk up a lot of that hill, but as I was making my way up I noticed that I was still running past sections that I had definitely walked last year. Also, my walking felt strong rather than last year's I am completely pooped style of walking and I was able to overtaking others that were also walking this time around instead of just keeping up with them. Interestingly I noticed that my hamstring was feeling the inclines, which is not what I had typically feeling, but it was more of a my hamstring is working to push me up the hills awareness rather than the woah you're overstriding again thing it had been doing. And I won't deny that the slow start helped to limit the overstriding pain that I often notice when I begin most of my runs (just for the first few steps).  

Last year the second train train caught me within the Emerald Lake parklands, but this time it was with about 5km to go as I could hear it approaching when at the Belgrave-Gembrook Rd crossing (7.8km). The next time we went near the tracks at Edenmont Road (8.8km) a marshall told us we could still catch it as it slows going up the hill. I wonder if he realised that we slowed down too! The second train finished 1:10:43. I had only just entered the Emerald Lake parklands at this point and still had 2km to go. 

Chris and Scott from Westerfolds parkrun were staking out the finish line, so it was nice to receive a small cheer from them (and I think another non-Westerfolds parkrunner who was with them) going up the short and steep hill to the finish line. While I had a strong finish at the end it wasn't the kind of finishing line sprint I usually go for as my hamstring had held up for most of the run and I had no plans to make it worse! 1:22:07 according to my watch (1:22:03 officially). Faster than last year, slower than intended, but happy as I knew I had gone a lot better on the hills.

Once I got home I was able to inspect how my run had gone compared to last year. The slow start definitely cost me time but I made up enough time (and a bit more) on the hills that I was able to pick up a PB for the run. By the official time it was only a 1:50 PB, but still better. It's probably not enough to get me out of the last starting group next year, unless being female somehow works in my favour (apparently the women had a different seeding arrangement, which doesn't actually make sense when you consider that it's a mixed race). My placing percentages improved as there were 300 more runners this year, likely due to last year being wet and the weather on Sunday being lovely - but I finished at the 76th/24th percentile overall (and 60th/40th percentile amongst the women) which means that seeding me in the final group made sense (I finished in the 82nd/18th percentile last year, 70th/30th percentile amongst the women).

The Strava segment treasures also show that I had a slow start this year. But I'll always cherish PBs climbing up hills rather than descending them.
Image via Strava.
I know that I can do a lot better on this run, I just need to not be injured so that I can train appropriately! And while my legs did a lot better on the hills this year, I'm not sure if it's because I added a couple of hilly runs over the past few weekends (one in the Dandenongs three/four weeks ago, and a less hilly Lysterfield trip two/three weeks ago) or because I was forced to start more slowly thus had more left in the tank once the hills started.

I felt a lot stronger at the Sussan 10km in December despite the tendonitis, so I want to take on Puffing Billy when I feel like I can run at that strength again**! Next time, Gadget!

Image originally from some Tumblr according to the file name, but I nicked it from here.

* He occasionally goes to Westerfolds parkrun, we're in some of the same Facebook groups, and I would say that he is the forum personality that I interact the most with on the Cool Runnings forums. He was the one who directed me to the best parking spot for Albert parkrun a while ago, and more recently we've both been venturing into the Puffing Billy and Asians at parkrun (release the trolls!) threads. In real life he has no idea who I am, which I find hilarious. In all fairness to him, I only put two and two together recently - and I don't have my face on my Facebook profile. 

** I'd run if I was injured like I currently am anyway as it's such a pretty course. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Shepparton parkrun

The Puffing Billy fun run is on this weekend, and while I may not be feeling anywhere close to 100% thanks to my silly right hamstring, I am hoping to be able to run a PB simply because I am running more this year for the same timeframe than I was last year (which was the first time I ran the Great Train Race). Although I had more cycling fitness last year, so we'll see...

I've gone out on a couple of super-short runs this week, mainly just to see how the hamstring is going, but also to run without the tempo trainer so that I could settle into a "natural" gait on Sunday. I have changed my exercises since I saw the physio last week—daily exercises focussing on putting weight on the hamstring while holding it in the eccentric phase and on strengthening my left glute. The physio thinks my hamstring problem is a result of my relatively weak left glute, which itself is possibly a result of focussing on the right glute after the arthroscopy on the right knee. It's a bit like a game of dominoes. Anyway, the change in exercises means I have a different kind of soreness in the hamstring now - although I think it's a fatigue kind of soreness. I'll keep doing the glute strengthening through to Sunday, but I'm skipping the hamstring work until after.

I'm hoping that I can take it easy at the start of the run on Sunday for the first couple of kilometres, settle into 5:30 pace through the toughest part of the run, and begin a mini-wind-up run at the 10km mark. That last bit is going to depend a lot on my fitness and my hamstring. I'll have to be careful on a few descents (I still have nightmares from the time I slid down the gravel of this descent with a car behind me when I attempted to do a bit of route recon by bike last year), but I can hopefully manage as long as I remember to take short quick steps!


I took a week off parkrun after visiting Balyang Sanctuary as the Sjögrens flare and parkrun-mehness (sounds legit) set in, but visited Shepparton parkrun the following week.

Yes, it was a gorgeous day for a parkrun!

My hamstring had been annoying me at the time, but I had such a serious reaction to a mosquito bite on the my right calf that it numbed most of my right leg and I couldn't feel any hamstring pain. In hindsight I should not have "run by feel" and should have paid attention to my watch. It turned out that I pushed a little harder than I should have, and it was only as the inflammation died and numbing reduced over the following days that I could feel my overworked hamstring. Also, in the time between the onset of hamstring soreness and the passing of all the numbing, I managed to bruise my leg with the spiky ball by pushing into the soreness a bit more than I should have! At least this meant the podiatrist could see I was using the spiky ball when I saw him a few days later...

I figure that if you can see the inflammation on a low quality shot, then that tells you exactly how badly I reacted to that mosquito bite. I don't always react this way, and find I react to bites differently depending where I happen to be when I get bitten. #NotAllMosquitoes
Original image from Shepparton parkrun Facebook page.

It was a lovely morning for a parkrun, and I arrived with enough time to park near the local cafe, visit the parkrun starting area, scope out alternative parking options and move the car to the main road due to the limited car parking in the area around the cafe.

So that's my first bit of advice—if arriving from the south via the Goulburn Valley Highway, stay on the left-hand lane and park on the left after you've crossed the railway tracks and passed the Shell Service Station. Yes, the Shepparton parkrun website more or less tells you to park here exactly, but that Whyndam Street is the Goulburn Valley Highway isn't obvious when you're on the regional pages of the Melway. No, I don't use a GPS navigator. Also, Google Maps finds Whyndam Street accurately but only ever shows the "Goulburn Valley Highway" name. If you're arriving from the north via Goulburn Valley Highway, there's a right-hand-turn slip-lane before the railway tracks that you can use to enter Shell and then exit onto the parkrun-side of the Goulburn Valley Highway.

Coming from the north? Do what the Corolla's doing!
Yes, my only shot of the railway/Shell positioning happened to be instructional.

There are toilets near the finish area, although they're hidden from view if you're approaching from the south via the Goulburn Valley Highway because they're behind the Shell service station. There are two undercover areas immediately north of the toilets, and Shepparton parkrun meet at the second one.

This is the undercover area you should gravitate to if in search of Shepparton parkrun goodness on a Saturday morning.
The parkrun course consists of three loops - a preliminary loop that goes past that spot where we had lunch on the remote sensing ground-truthing field trip during my second-last year of undergraduate uni heads north, hugging the east-side of the lake until reaching the extension of Welsford Street before returning along the Goulburn Valley Highway, and two clockwise laps of Victoria Park Lake.

While the first lap of the lake looked to confuse travellers staying at the Victoria Lake Holiday Park as we passed them at the 1.7km mark, the second lap meant we had plenty of high-fives on offer from kids staying there (so stick to the left at 3.5km if you want some high-fives). Locals running around the lake are easy to train very friendly, with most returning my Good morning! calls even after coming across them multiple times. One even surprised me by calling out Good morning! after I'd finished running and was taking photos.

As the course is around a lake it is generally flat, with the only noticeable rises occurring after the Holiday Park bridge (at the spot where the terrain changes to gravel) and along the finishing straight. Most of the path around the lake is on tarmac, with short sections of gravel and concrete. Despite the combination of different loops, the course is easy to follow as it is well-marked and the north-end marshall who directs you to the correct path on the preliminary loop is the same one who directs you on the subsequent lake loops. It's very well organised and I didn't notice any pinch-points on the course as there is plenty of grass alongside the path and the preliminary loop helps to distribute the mass of parkrunners before hitting the bridge after the Holiday Park. And that bridge isn't really a pinch point either - I'm sure it's three-times the width of the Berwick Springs "bridge" that I'm not a fan of.

I ended up with a handy 25:37, met a few locals who originally lived in Templestowe (so they actually knew where Westerfolds was), and had a good coffee at Cafe on the Lake while other parkrunners had their breakfasts. The food looked good and the service was great, although I've noticed multiple negative reviews for the cafe that I don't agree with.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Balyang Sanctuary parkrun

Lately, I've been thinking more about cycling again - mainly because of the weak hamstring/glute coupling problem I've developed in over the past few months. It's a problem I didn't have last year, and started to think that it was because I was cycling regularly then and not now. So I decided I was going to make my way to Westefolds parkrun by bike on the weekend.

Naturally, it was raining. However, it wasn't particularly cold so I headed out on the bike in the drizzle. While I wear cycling glasses most of the time to protect my autoimmune-affected dry eyes when I wear contact lenses, they were more of a hindrance to my vision with them rather than without. At least I was able to stick them into my helmet and look semi-pro for a bit. Only semi, because flat-bar. Wearing my cycling cap would have helped, but I'm still not finding wearing caps under my helmet that comfortable. Live and learn.

It didn't take long for me to realise just how much conditioning I had lost in the many months off the bike. The short drag on Blackburn Road after crossing the freeway was always a good test of how I was feeling when I was a bit more bike fit. On Saturday, it was a reminder of how much strength I had lost. My glutes were burning, and it was a clear sign that I need to spend more time on the bike!


While I had initially planned to head to Shepparton the week after Albury Wodonga parkrun, I was starting to feel a bit pooped thanks to a Sjögren's flare (or "flair" as they like to say in some forums... grrr), so I headed to Balyang Sanctuary parkrun instead.

Hello Balyang Sanctuary parkrun!

My hamstring was feeling better than the previous week, so I took it fairly easy on the course. I think I would have struggled anyway if I had been run-fit and tried to set a good time as the Balyang Sanctuary parkrun course is a bit bumpier than I expected! I knew it wasn't flat and not as bumpy as Westerfolds, but the grade of some of the bumps was greater than anticipated. Although it doesn't matter when you're trying to just cruise around the course.

While the vertical scale is distorted, you can see that the bumps become progressively worse the further you move away from the start - and being an out-and-back course means that you get to do them twice! Geelong really isn't that far for me, so I am looking forward to coming back and giving their parkrun a proper go.

It's a beautiful course on a shared path along the eastern/north/Geelong-side of the Barwon River. The route is leafy and well-loved by the local community (there were plenty of non-parkrunners on the course), and is tarmac - which is my favourite sealed surface to run on.

It's not your eyes, I think I was so fatigued at this point that I didn't really have the patience to set up my glorified point-and-shoot properly.

Although I did a slightly better job of snapping the BackPedalers, probably because they actively engaged with me and tried to pose! I've sent the images to one of the admins of their closed Facebook group, but as we're not Facebook friends I know that the message has gone unseen into the rarely noticed "Other" folder.

Lots of community action on the other side of the Barwon.

There is plenty of parking in the area, and toilets too. The parkrun meets at an undercover area, so there's plenty of space for the parkrun volunteers to set up, and for you to store extra clothing and drink bottles during the run without worrying about them getting wet or getting in the way of the volunteers. There are also plenty of other spots to run around in the area - so I'll have to explore them when I come back. So many reasons to get my hamstrings and glutes sorted and firing properly!

Finally, don't forget that there are no scheduled parkrun events on ANZAC Day! Although there will be an 8am Freedom Run at Westerfolds parkrun - and perhaps others too, but Westerfolds is the only one I actively know about.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Albury Wodonga parkrun

There is clearly a connection between wanting to update the blog and running more regularly again - my hamstring is still being stupid, but I seem to be able to run as long as I don't overstride! Also, am working on getting the little one running - we're still quite slow, but there a chance we could complete a parkrun in under an hour soon rather than needing a half-hour head-start to finish before the tail-runner. Of course, I'd also have to work on her motion sickness...

I went on a parkrun tourism binge in the time between my last proper entry and now - Albury Wodonga was the first I visited (way back on February 14), and as my hamstring was at peak annoyance then, I walked the course as the tail runner and did some photography too.

Easily my favourite photo of the day.

It's a very pretty course! If you're ever doing a Melbourne-Sydney trip (or vice-versa), I thoroughly recommend timing it so you can do this parkrun on the way. Of course, you could always do it as a Freedom run!

The course follows the Murray and is an out-and-back course, with about one-third of the course in Victoria. I figured that if I was going to try and complete all the Victorian parkrun courses, that I should complete those that included sections on Victoria too. Of the "old" courses, I still have Inverloch and Mornington to complete, and Traralgon and Warragul only just launched over the past two weekends! Sale, Altona Beach and Castlemaine are confirmed to be launching soon over the coming weeks, so I still have quite a way to go!

It's a border-crossing parkrun!
The Albury Wodonga parkrun course is on a mix of concrete and tarmac, and its meandering nature means that there are plenty of spots where you can see other parkrunners ahead of you - and behind if you weren't the tail runner!

parkrunners ahead - WAY ahead!

Unfortunately, there's a pinch point on the course about 400 m courtesy of a bridge. There's really not much that can be done about this as the start point is an area that gives them plenty of space for the 150-250 parkrunners they tend to get (as well as being the best spot with access to parking and toilets).

219 parkrunners with 5km to go! 
I'll have to find time to return one day to actually run it, but I just need my hamstring to settle down first!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hello! Long time no see!

I drafted this while lying on the bed, in the middle of a Persian food coma, and the dog decided that it was the best time to commandeer my legs. I hadn't taken her for a walk, and I wasn't planning to, so I let her be and drafted this post from the tablet that was within reach.

Soon after my last post, I had an extended Sjogren's flare where all I really wanted to do was sleep. Mileage went down, as did my capacity to stare at computer screens all day. I did manage to get quite a bit of parkrun tourism done during that period, so I have a number of reviews to add to the blog: Albury Wodonga, Balyang Sanctuary, Shepparton, Point Cook and Toolern Creek. I meant to go to Inverloch too but I was so exhausted that I stayed in bed instead. No shortage of content to write about, just energy - once I sit down in front of the computer and get a good amount of PhD stuff done, I have had enough of the computer screen and don't want to look at it any longer.

I am also still not over the hamstring niggle, but have managed to clock 25:37, 25:34 and 25:32 at the last three parkrun events I have attended (all relatively flat -  Shepparton, Point Cook and Toolern Creek). I'm not feeling fit by any means but am enjoying my consistency over 5k. Although with Puffing Billy in 6 weeks, I am a bit worried about how much I'll be able to push it. I should be able to do better than last year, when my average pace was 6:10/km. The first descent down to the overpass almost makes my hamstring hurt just by thinking about it! Along with pace, my long run has also suffered as a result of the niggle. I struggled through 13k (and 100m elevation) earlier today, but I'm hoping to build on that over the next 5 weekends! 

I'm planning on heading to Pakenham parkrun this weekend - I volunteered there at their Inaugural, but am yet to run the course. It is another flat course, so am hoping to get another mid-25 minute run in - or a little quicker if the hamstring can handle it! 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Swimming accidents

Although it wasn't really an accident because I suspected that it could happen. I just wasn't sure if it would happen.

But it did.

I killed my Garmin FR70. I don't actually have the best history for this watch. It's meant to be waterproof to 50m, but the story begins with the first incarnation I had of this watch - the FR60.

I went to Centennial Park on my bike on a foggy morning with the FR60. This shouldn't be a problem -  like it's successor the FR60 has a 50m waterproof rating. But I ended up with mist inside the watch and it made the screen illegible that morning. And it persisted all day, all week and the week after. It bothered me so I sought a replacement under warranty. This was quite a straight-forward process and this ease is why I cannot bring myself to now buy electronic equipment online from overseas. You might think that was the end of the story, but it's not.

Because the watchband of the replacement FR60 broke! Not cool. It was less than a year since my original FR60 was replaced, but the replacement watch was not under warranty itself! After a few phone calls I determined that it was cheaper for me to track down a FR70 on sale than pay Garmin to replace the band. This is also why I now have three Garmin heart-rate monitors, although only the one Garmin watch.

Eventually I grew tired of manually adding my routes on Dailymile so I ended up with the Nike+ GPS Sportswatch. Aside from a few days where it didn't map the route (I have no idea why), it's been fantastic. It's two years old now and the only thing that really lets it down is the inability to create complicated intervals. But if you just want to get out and run, I can't recommend anything else. I know there's a lot of love out there for Garmins, but given my history with them... the Nike has definitely been a better buy for what I use it for. Although it's not recommended for swimming, neither is the base GPS-Garmin FR10 (while its successor, the FR15, is waterproofed to 50m, it has additional functions that make the FR15 a different kind of beast to the Nike+ and FR10).

So my FR70 became redundant. Completely. When I took it to the pool on that first return swim this year, I had a suspicion that the waterproofing seal was dying based on how it looked when I last replaced the battery (one section looked a little skinny, although it was intact from memory). I did use the FR70 on a run a few weeks ago when the battery of my Polar HR monitor had died (which is what the Nike watch uses), and found that the "Mode" button was being a bit temperamental.

But the entire watch joined the "Mode" button's hissy fit once it was in the water.

This is what happens when your waterproofing seal (the red thing) fails.
So, if I hear you put down a Nike GPS watch because it's not a Garmin, do not wonder why I roll my eyes at you. I also own a Forerunner 610 (Ta dah! HR monitor #3), which I use on the bike because the Nike GPS does not record data points sufficiently often to deal with speeds above 40km/h - unless you go in a straight line. While I take the 610 out if I'm curious about cadence or wish to do a whizz-bang interval workout, I otherwise prefer the Nike watch. It's prettier.

OK, technically it still works - once it's dry.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Not the Twitchy Hamstring parkrun

During the week I had noticed that my right hamstring didn't especially enjoy going up hills when I did my tempo interval run (consisting of a warm-up, reps of ~5k pace with jogging recoveries, and a warm down). Last week my reps were 1 minute of pace and 2 minutes of recovery, this week I went for 2 minutes of pace and 3 minutes of recovery. I find it difficult to wind down the pace, so I tend to walk the first 30 seconds or so of the recovery until I no longer feel agitated and can jog.

I could feel that the hamstring was tight as soon as I stepped out the door, but while I didn't get enough of a warm up in (I only had an hour to fit this run into) it didn't feel like any length of warm up was going to help. I chose a slightly downhill path as my first rep and got through that without feeling any additional tightness and decided that I was probably going to survive the tempo intervals without incurring any additional damage. I got through the next 5 reps without any problems, regardless of whether I was going slightly uphill or not.

However, once fatigue set in I must have been working a little harder and I could feel the hamstring tightening. While the pace for my first 6 reps was fairly consistent (4:41, 4:55, 4:52, 4:43, 4:45 and 4:51 min/km), my last two reps were a bit slower (5:03, 5:05 min/km) but consistent between themselves so am not complaining at all. And my hamstring didn't feel any worse afterwards - although it was still tight when I walked/jogged a neighbour's dog the next day.

While I completed the Maribyrnong parkrun course last week with this twitchy hamstring, I knew Westerfolds parkrun was going to be a bit different. The first kilometre at Westerfolds is mostly downhill, and is followed by a flat second kilometre. But the third and fourth kilometres were going to work the hamstring as this is where the "warm-up hill", "pre-hill" and "actual-hill" sit on the course. The fifth kilometre is mostly downhill, although there is a short climb from the bridge to the toilet block that always feels hard as it's the last 400m of the course.

My enhanced version of the Westerfolds parkrun Strava segment, with the "warm-up hill" in pink, the "pre-hill" in blue and the "actual-hill" in green. Arrows on the map indicate the start of each climb.
The course topography means that I can't chase negative splits. I have tried even splits in the past, but it relies on pushing up the actual-hill, which wasn't something I was sure I could do with the twitchy hamstring.

In the end, it wasn't the hamstring that caused any issues. While I had had a late night tidying up some PhD data and didn't arrive at parkrun with sufficient time for a warm-up, my hamstring felt fine based on the walk between the car and the start line. It didn't stop me from having a strong start, and my first three kilometre-splits were somewhat consistent at 5:01, 4:54 and 5:10. But the last little kick of the pre-hill ended up causing a lot of damage - to my calves.

They were not happy as I pushed up the last section of the pre-hill. I had been so preoccupied with this hamstring niggle during the week, I'd neglected my calves and not given them any foam-rolling or release during the week. So at this point they tightened and I ended up having to walk up the actual-hill. I decided to have a relatively controlled run on the descent - my final kilometre was 4:56. But that fourth kilometre which includes the pre-hill and actual-hill blew out to 6:07.

So I ended up with a final official time of 26:26 (I forgot to hit lap at the end of my parkrun, and I went on to warm-down and try and loosen the calves before I returned to the car). My warm-down didn't really help, as the calves would loosen on the flats and descents but they'd seize up again on any of the short sharp hills in the area.

On a positive note, I did test the hamstring a few times during the run - consciously using my glutes on the hills and it felt fine. I'm hoping this means that the niggle has mostly passed... or it could be that the calf tightness is more obvious and masking any hamstring twitchiness!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Westerfolds Handicap Freedom Run

While we had initially planned to have a handicap parkrun on February 7, it ended up going ahead on a Thursday evening as a Freedom Run. We couldn't mention of "parkrun", the "Westerfolds parkrun" Facebook page couldn't host it, and we could not advertise it on Twitter - but we still had a healthy and manageable turn out of 32 runners, of which two were First Timers to the Westerfolds Park course.

In short, Bree won the handicap race, smashing her PB by over 1 minute in the process - she hadn't been sub-29 previously! She ended up scoring an official PB of 29:22 at parkrun on the weekend, which still improved on her old official best by over 30 seconds! We ended up with six PBs on the day - the first five finishers and one in the middle who started (relatively) behind schedule.

We were making up the handicap event as we went along, so I was happy that the number of attendees was a manageable one. Prior to the event, I published a spreadsheet with everyone's Westerfolds parkrun PB, and a tentative start-time for each person - assuming the earliest starter had a PB of one hour. As I marked-off each attendee I had them write their start-time down on one of their hands, but we found our earliest starter was going to be at 29 minutes. As it was a cool evening with mild winds I opted to bring everyone's start time forward 10 minutes.

We had a few hiccups associated with the start times, but I don't think it stopped anyone from enjoying the run (and it didn't stop me from figuring out the correct net times). The first hiccup occurred with a late-starter. Terry arrived in time for his published start-time, but was effectively behind as I had brought the start-times forward by ten minutes. He actually ended up with the greatest improvement on his PB (from 29:04 to 27:18) and theoretically would have won the event if it all ran smoothly.

It also meant that Westerfolds took over the Most Recent parkrun Freedom Runs list for a little while!

I definitely needed a second pair of hands on the night, and I was lucky that Narelle brought her whole family along. Her husband, Craig, distributed Finish Tokens while I looked after the stopwatch and yelled out the positions. A second pair of hands at the start would also have helped as it meant that one could have sent runners off while the other answered random questions.

I think it's something we'd like to do again - although we may only be able to fit one in in Februrary and then have to wait until the following summer as it will otherwise be too dark! And the next one will run more smoothly!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

January Recap

After taking about 6 weeks off from any running goals, and adding a swim to my weekly routine, I once again missed my monthly mileage target - but it doesn't actually bother me! I only started doing speedwork and hill reps again last week although I haven't quite managed a proper long run since my parkrun-based half marathon, which obviously stands out in the Smashrun overview.

In the past week I've taken up walking a neighbour's golden retriever (Miss M). 30kg of dog is obviously very different to 3.8kg of dog (Miss R, aka "The Dog"), mainly because Miss M can seriously pull me along while I can easily lift Miss R if I tug the leash! Walking Miss M turns into a nice easy run after about ten minutes - we have a tug-o-war walk down the hill to the park, then a relatively frenetic pace of about 5:30 min/km until she settles down into a light jogging pace of about 8:00 min/km, and walk the end as Miss M hasn't quite figured out how to pace herself.

Smashrun Badge Hunting has slowed down, which was expected as I've picked up most of the low-hanging fruit. I'm going to have to run a marathon if I want to go on a badge-hunting rampage! I did manage to pick up the In it for January (10 days of running in January) Half Marathoner and Perfect 100 (100-day streak), and expect to pick up another three early in February so it won't be too long until I unlock my next background!

I've also managed to survive the first month of Jantastic without needing to use a Joker, and I feel fine too. A bit tired, but not tired of running - although my calves currently beg to differ! I'm going to stick to my current aims of three runs and one swim for February's targets. I've chosen a 10km run as my distance goal for the month, which should be easily managed - although I haven't run that far since my parkrun half-marathon in the first week of January!

I'm enjoying the weekly swim, and am pleasantly surprised with how far I've come over four swims. I can now hop into the water and just start swimming without worrying too much, and accidentally taking on water doesn't cause me to just stop in the middle of the pool and stand up. I'm still taking on each lap separately, but can occasionally put two laps together with only a quick 5-second breather instead of the 30 I usually take.

Aims for February

Most obviously I really need to get a regular long run sorted - I'm hoping that it will be my Tuesday trail run, although I've been struggling with that in recent weeks! I'm hoping that by adding a couple of runs during the week, with either tempo intervals or hill reps, that leg strength and fitness will return, and that the long run will find its way into my legs in due course.

I'm Run Directing at Westerfolds parkrun next week, but I'll be going on a Victorian tourism spree for each week after that. Hopefully I can get over my hamstring niggle and tight calves (which are an artefact of the peroneal tendonitis) before the weekly road tripping begins so that I can run strongly at each course!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Return to Maribyrnong parkrun

Saturday was absolutely gorgeous down by the Maribyrnong River - and I happened to be back at Maribyrnong parkrun because the Half Marathon Club had another Meetup event that I could attend! I may not always enjoy crowds (which is why I tend to avoid birthday and inaugural parkrun events these days), but it is nice to be able to pick out familiar faces when you play parkrun tourist!

I spotted Westerfolds parkrun regular Paul at the recommended carpark (the Anglers Tavern), so I walked down to the start with him. Turns out he lives between the two, so he may not be a Westerfolds parkrun regular anymore! Although I think I can get away with it as he's done more parkruns at Westerfolds than at Maribyrnong at this stage. 

There was a minor disaster once I approached the toilets and found they were locked! Gah! Luckily the service station nearby had a toilet, so I suppose Maribyrnong still have their transport/tarmac/toilet trifecta intact! Luke and Xavier from the Half Marathon Club Meetup had arrived by the time I came back to the start area, so I said hello and had a brief chat before doing a bit of a warm-up as my right hamstring had been a bit twitchy this week. I figured out what caused it a few days later - I've recently been taking The Dog's ball when we've gone for walks, and the 100m walk to the oval is not enough of a warmup for me to then kick the ball repeatedly when we play "fetch"!

The pre-run briefing, starring Michael (I think!) as Run Director.
I'm awful with names - I was happy to have remembered Luke and Xavier whom I had only met last week.
I decided that I would go out for a solid tempo run, basing my pace on a four-step breathing routine and hoping to finish with something close to 25:30. I also wanted to get a photo during the run, and briefly stopped after the 1km mark as the field had stretched out a little and we were on a curve without a bridge or too many trees in the way. I had imagined parkrunners all along that curve, but it didn't quite work out that way as I was a little bit behind the group in front of me, which meant a larger gap by the time I took the photo!

One day Maribyrnong parkrun will have sufficiently large numbers that this entire curve with be FILLED with parkrunners!

I've been wearing the Garmin again and been having fun looking at my cadence - it's not obvious from my heart rate or pace, but the cadence data clearly shows where I briefly stopped to take the above snap!
With one kilometre down and four to go, I still felt fine with my four-step breathing pattern and decided that I might try and slowly increase the pace with each split. Unfortunately I saw that my second kilometre split was 4:59, and quickly calculated my first kilometre split from the overall time to be a touch over 5:00. While I was still on course for negative splits, I was going a lot faster than I had intended!

As it was my second time on the course, and I was neither chasing a PB nor trying to figure out exactly where I was within Maribyrnong, I was able to take look around a bit more and enjoy the course. Its lollipop nature means that you can see the speedy parkrunners heading back to the start while you're approaching halfway. The river is quite nice to run along too - aside from typical path traffic of other runners, walkers and cyclists, there were a couple of guys fishing on the banks, and also a rowing crew out on the water.

We hit the final part of the Burndap Park wetland, and made our way back north towards the start of the course. As a middle-of-the-pack-parkrunner I also get to see the tail-enders heading south once I've passed the halfway mark. But directly ahead of me were two ladies I had been keeping an eye on, thinking that my negative splits could work out if I stayed in (very loose) touch with them and didn't work too hard to chase them.  I had reasoned that it'd be unlikely that they'd both fade at the same time! My watch vibrated to indicate another kilometre had been completed. 4:56! A bit of a jump from the previous split, but at least it was still in the right direction.

Then a third lady overtook me and eventually joined the two that had always been ahead of me. I made a note that "purple girl" was running even better negative splits than me at that stage, but also recognised I had no interest in chasing the group down. My "tempo" run was enough, although I was definitely on a three-step breathing cycle by this stage and so I was happy to just keep them within sight. Another vibration, another kilometre. Again completed in 4:56. I briefly wondered if equal splits still counted towards negative splits, decided I would take it as such, and continued on my negative split plan.

Three ladies ahead, while I'm back in the distance!
Image by Brent Radoslovic, from the Maribyrnong parkrun Facebook page.

Reasons why I didn't catch them #425: Aeroplane arms.
Image by Brent Radoslovic, from the Maribyrnong parkrun Facebook page.

Before I knew it (or perhaps while I had been distracted posing and running from side to side), the group of three became four as one of the initially speedier runners had faded! It's not too often that I get to watch a pseudo-race in front of me, but I suppose it's an advantage of a relatively flat course where you don't need to start too conservatively to save legs for the hills ahead! Although there is a hill on the Maribyrnong parkrun course it's too early to cause too much bother at the start, and too late to be bothered by it at the end. If you're chasing a PB you're hurting anyway, and it's not so steep that it affects your strides/rhythm.

My watch vibrated one more time, but I was on the final straight back to the start/finish, I didn't really care to look. Just like last week, I hit lap instead of stop and continued on for a little bit longer. I walked back along the course, clapping and cheering on the parkrunners who were about to finish their parkruns.

The finishing straight!
I spotted Paul and ran the last section again with him. "Between the flags!" someone called out - likely referring to me, assuming that they had not realised that I had already finished! I ignored their advice while Paul ran through the flags, and I turned around and walked back again to find Luke. I found him as he was running down the hill, and joined him until he finished his parkrun. In hindsight, the walk/run combination at the end made for a nice warm-down and is something I'll be careful to do again! 

After scanning in I stuck around chatting to Luke and Xavier, and then to Paul for a bit. A few Maribyrnong regulars recognised me from Westerfolds Run Directing duties, so I didn't leave Maribyrnong parkrun until 9.15am! We had a chat about the upcoming Westerfolds Park handicap freedom run (7pm tomorrow, Thursday 29th January - check out the Facebook invite if you're interested), and the random things parkrunners chat about.

As for my final time and splits? Again, I was left going through the History section on the Garmin and calculating my final time based on the laps! 5:00, 4:59, 4:56, 4:56, 4:53 and 0:23 meant I was a little over the 25-minute mark and I ended up with an official time of 25:07. I cannot say it was an easy run, but it's nice to know that I am back at 25-minute pace although I probably only lost 4 seconds taking that photo!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The technological challenges of reading blogs

Reading blogs should be simple - but I find that it's not. I don't particularly enjoy reading from the computer screen as I already spend far too much time staring at it from behind a desk. So I'm trying to limit my blog reading to my tablet - I know it's just another screen, but it's away from the desk and seems to irritate my eyes less.

Since making the switch to the tablet, I finally caught up with my blog reading and am now generally up to date! Although technically it's only the "running" and "parkrun" blogs that I've listed on the blogrolls of this blog that I'm up to date with, but it's a start. As I am spending most of my time running rather than cycling these days, so I think that's enough to say I'm "up to date". And I think about 80% of my outstanding posts come from The Kitchn!

I have found some quirks with the RSS reader that I use, Feedly. It doesn't seem to like Mark's blog too much - and I hope think it's only Mark's blog. I'm not sure what Mark did to Feedly, or even if an apology will sufficce, but I only realised something suspicious was going on when I wondered why he'd only been writing single-paragraph posts lately. Of course Feedly's deception was uncovered once I checked his blog properly. I'm not sure why Feedly is taking out whatever problem it has with Mark on me, messing with my, "You've read all the blogs!" sense of accomplishment! Not cool, Feedly, not cool.

But I'm ever so slowly getting the hang of commenting on these blogs from my tablet, which is what I use to do most of my blog reading on. I don't enjoy writing from my tablet, so I had been saving the posts as "for later" on Feedly. It's just that revisiting the "for later" pile doesn't readily happen! So now I'm trying to comment as I go - all on the tablet! And so, I am also slowly chipping away at the "for later" pile.

There are a few other quirks with Feedly when it switches between the app and the blog websites (which I need to access to comment). Sometimes returning to Feedly is seamless and drops me right back where I was; sometimes it restarts the app!

So... does anyone out there recommend any particular RSS readers?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Not Westerfolds Wednesday: Return to Albert parkrun

I finally found a Melbourne-based Meetup group that suits me interests - mainly because they like parkrun and don't feel the need to commit to only the one location! Weeeeeeee!!! If you're curious, it's the Half Marathon Club Meetup group, and Saturday at Albert parkrun was the first event of theirs that I was able to attend.

A gorgeous morning for a parkrun!
It took me a little while to spot the Meetup group's organiser, Luke, but I eventually found the aqua cap I was looking for. I said hello to Luke (it helps that I was wearing the same kit as in my profile pic - my five30runners gear) and met a few others from the Meetup - although I can only remember the names of two of the four (in addition to Luke).

Soon after that it was onto the only real formality of the morning - the run briefing! John was the Run Director, and it was his first time too! The day ran very smoothly from a parkunner/non-volunteer perspective...

First-time Run Director John.

...which was impressive once I found out it was a Course Record Attendance! 355 parkrunners and no glitches does indicate that Albert parkrun is a well-oiled machine!

It was only a little bit busy...
The start was a bit congested - I had self-seeded far too deeply into the start pack. I could feel that I was burning a bit more from my legs than I would have liked as I tried to find the right spot to run the rest of the parkrun in. I spent most of the first 1.5km in a weird kind of interval run, sitting behind some people until there was an opening to overtake, which would often need to be done rapidly as the course is tree-lined. While I wasn't the only one running completely off-course and around the trees, it was more work than I would have liked to have been doing.

I paid for that fartlek-like start once we passed half-way and ran into the northerly that was blowing that day. I'm not used to running into headwinds, and while I managed to keep pace for the first 500m or so I could not sustain it. Headwinds were also something I noticed affected my effort during the Sussan 10km, and may be something I need to regularly run in if I choose to take the October half-marathon (as part of the Melbourne Marathon Festival) seriously.

As I approached Lakeside Stadium I thought about ramping up the pace a bit to see if I could salvage anything from the woeful 4th kilometre. I had started the run hoping to run comfortably under 26 minutes, but I knew that the 4th kilometre had cost me time. Just getting to 26:00 was going to require some effort in the final section of the run! I try to run by feel, and although I occasionally check the watch to see how I'm doing - I missed the 4th-km split on my watch on Saturday. I was wearing the Garmin Forerunner 610, so it vibrated but I didn't want to look because I knew it was BAAAAAD.

However, the closer I got to Lakeside, the more I thought about what a stupid idea it was to ramp up the speed. I also made a mental note that my frame of mind (chasing a time) clearly meant I was ready to stop "just plodding" during the week, and that I ought to start some speedwork again. :) I will likely not be feeling so "smiley face" about this come tomorrow evening, which is when I will likely be doing this speedwork.

As we passed Lakeside, someone came up on my shoulder and told me, "500m to go!" At this stage I had progressed from my four-step breathing sequence and calm three-step breathing sequence to a laboured three-step breathing sequence. If you hear me at this stage, it's fairly obvious that I'm struggling and not exactly feeling wonderful.

Is that me pushing off more from my big toe and not so much from the outside of my foot?!?!
Image from the Albert parkrun Facebook page, but not sure exactly who the photographer was!

Finally, I could see the rowing shed near the finish line and I knew I could commit to some stronger strides. I got closer to the two ladies I'd been sitting behind for the past 2km or so, tried to cheer them on to ramp up their speed and headed for a fast finish with "500m to go!" guy. He crossed the line first, and I hit "lap" on my watch as I finished. I had planned to go back for the others in the Meetup group and run their final hundred-metres or so with them to get me some extra kays, but ended up sitting on the grass for a bit to catch my breath instead.

I did end up getting up and finding Luke and Abigail. I was wondering if my legs were up for another fast finish, to encourage a strong finish from Luke. I can't remember how they felt, so it must not have been too bad - that's what you get for talking when running!

The longest scanning queue I've been in since I was at St Peters parkrun. Was nice to end up with a finish token greater than 100 despite running well under sub-30. Again, something that hasn't happened to me in a while!
With everyone back, Luke spotted the others in the Meetup I had met earlier and said our goodbyes. Luke, Abby and I joined the barcode scanning queue - it's been about two years since I've enjoyed waiting in line for my barcode to be scanned, as was often the case at St Peters. Fittingly, it was their birthday on Saturday - and they notched up a Course Record Attendance of 455 - that would have been SOME scanning queue!

I didn't know exactly what time I had run at the time until later, as I was walking back to the car and adding up the seconds of the km-splits (5:09, 5:06, 5:06, 5:20, 5:06 - and 0:15). 26:02 by my watch, officially 26:04. At least it's nice to know that my "run by feel" system is working!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Do the Spaniards love trail running?

I only ask because I kept finding myself on Spanish-language websites when doing research on trail shoes! I also come across German ones with great regularity, and I think this mix of search results in English, Spanish and German is Google's way of telling me that they have paid far too close attention to what I click on when the "Would you like to translate this page?" toolbar has turned up.

Thanks my status as a second-generation Australian with parents from Argentina, it wasn't really a problem. It does take me a bit more time to read the reviews, but my favourite site has been Trail Running Review. Despite it's title, it's entirely in Spanish.

Actually, I lie. Its title is in English.

But I love the little comparison charts they have.

I'm currently trying to track down the shoe on the right in a Women's 12 due to its superior "Adherencia en roca" and "Adherencia en roca mojada." It's relevant when you adore creek crossings.

And no, I'm not nearly as comfortable with German as I am with Spanish. It's just that I rarely use the Google translate toolbar - I'm sure it'll only require a few more French-language websites until I start getting French results in my Google searches too!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Splish splash

I think it's been almost 2 years since I last went swimming - my old Dailymile account suggests it was March 2013, which was when I had my last swimming lesson. Looking at my old blog, it appears I made no notes about this last set of lessons although I remember them to have been the best I've ever had! Interestingly one of my early swim-related blog posts over there was also called "Splish splash." I am obviously the highly creative sort.

To save you the trouble of reading the relevant posts on that blog, here's a history of my swimming "prowess":
  • I never got the hang of swimming when I was little - despite regular attendance with the primary-school program, and also with additional intensive school holiday programs. I just didn't get it.
  • In 2006, I took up adult lessons while I was studying at Melbourne Uni, and I remember being able to do at least one lap of the pool by the end of the program. It felt like 50m, but was only 25m. In hindsight, I find this simultaneously hilarious and enlightening. 
  • I didn't get into the pool again until 2012, when I took on adult lessons with a community college. The best bit was that the pool was 50m long but shallow for its entire length! I started with the beginners and an instructor named Claire who I thought was going to be a fantastic teacher. But I was bumped over to the intermediate group (with a lady named Katherine) when it became apparent that I my aah! water! anxiety was nothing compared to the genuine fear others in the group had.
  • Later that year I took swimming lessons at UNSW, as the community college only had their lessons on over summer. According to a blog post, I found these lessons better than my time with Katherine. Katherine's "lessons" were more about building up fitness, whereas the guy from UNSW was far more focussed on technique.
  • But it's the lessons from early 2013 (again with the community college) that I enjoyed the most. This time I was "intermediate" and ended up with Claire for the entire length of the term, and she was a fantastic teacher. She was able to diagnose and correct problems in a way that just made sense, and I know that I'd be happy to seek out lessons with her if I was ever back in Sydney.  

So with Jantastic now including swimming (and cycling), I decided to get back into the pool last weekend. And it didn't go too badly. The water was much warmer than UNSW's heated pool (which in turn was significantly warmer than the heated outdoor pool the community college used), which meant I had no "cold shock" that usually requires time to settle down. Also, I discovered that the indoor pool's deep end was only 1.65m, which significantly helped to reduce my aah! deep end! anxiety.

I started at the deep end and decided I would only try to make it to half-way on the first return lap, i.e. in ~12.5m stints. After successfully completing that I went for a "complete" return lap, resting at the shallow end. I completed the first 25m easily enough. But the aah! deep end! anxiety kicked in at half-way. Which is silly as I already knew that the deep end was sufficiently shallow for my 1.81m self. It took me a few more attempts from shallow to "deep" until I could ignore the anxiety and complete each 25m length without stopping.

This is why I now find my second bullet point above interesting - despite not being in the water for over 18 months, I was able to complete multiple laps of 25m without it feeling as if it were an onerous task. I only ended up with 14 laps in total, and with breaks at each end as I could feel my arms beginning to tire. If I had better technique I may have persisted, but I thought it would be best to just get out rather than fight on and develop crap habits.

Once my anxiety subsided and I was able to pay attention to what I was doing I noticed that I would lift my head up while swimming, and also out while breathing. So #1 on my swimming-to-do list is to keep my chin tucked in. It's easy enough to do, and helps to keep the entire body and legs in line, but not yet a habit. I also noticed my elbows were low when out of the water, so that is currently #2 on the list. I'm also sure that my strokes were rushed and that my hip rotations was poor, although they're not things I noticed on the weekend as there were other things I was far more aware of.

I'll be back in the water this week because of Jantastic (it's a fabulous excuse, really), and hopefully I'll have less anxiety and more awareness of what my body is doing!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Westerfolds Wednesday: The Anniversary Half Marathon

My first parkrun was 12th January 2013, which makes Wimpole Estate (UK), Harrow Lodge (UK) and Modderfontein Reserve (South Africa) parkruns my "spiritual" parkruns as we share our parkrun birthdays. In Australia, Shepparton parkrun helps me keep track of when my anniversary happens, although I'm one year ahead.

That being said, I have decided that I don't enjoy attending parkrun birthdays - I prefer smaller parkrun events, and thus I now avoid birthdays (and inaugurals) where possible due to the higher-than-typical numbers. So I spent my parkrun anniversary at Westerfolds parkrun.

Lately I've been planning to head to parkrun earlier to get some extra mileage out of the morning. With grey skies and light rain, I attempted to arrive at parkrun a little over an hour earlier so that I could squeeze in 10km, meaning I'd have 15km by the end of parkrun, and possibly extend to a half-marathon if I did another parkrun-lap and a bit. While I arrived at Westerfolds Park in time to do this, I realised my house keys were no longer in my pocket! After a few texts to home (I thought perhaps they fell out of my pocket in the driveway when I pulled out the car keys), and a lot of moving about in the car I finally found the keys under the driver's seat.

Grey skies = fake early morning = kangaroos!
Uuugh - that lens aberration, or whatever it is, is beginning to annoy me...
It was after 7am at this stage, and while I could theoretically fit in 10km in under 55 minutes, I was hoping to go for a cruisey run in order to give myself the chance of hitting the Half Marathon. I could also fit in the cruisey run but just start well after everyone else had gone... I started with a lap of the parkrun course in reverse, which meant covering the hill in the first km. I hoped that the slower pace up the hill would set me up into a good rhythm for the rest of the run. Of course it came undone on the downhill, although doubling back for a wet kookaburra helped.

A little after the bottom of the hill I encountered Rob, who was setting up the course, in a very hard-to-miss fluoro yellow boiler suit. I understood why he wore it (it had been raining), but I also wondered why he wore it (it was humid and thus the boiler suit would have been very uncomfortable and muggy). I then found Michael a couple of kms later at bottom of the hill which marks 1km of the parkrun course, and he commented that the kangaroo on the corner (who was munching away at what must have been some very tasty grass) was one of the largest he'd seen at the park. While there had been plenty of roos about near the start, none of them were the size of this one - nor were they as "cool" with humans. As I said, that grass must have been particularly tasty.

With my first lap complete, I started the second lap but the "right way" around. The large kangaroo was still there, so I decided to slow down, smoothen my stride, and take a video of him. I'm not very smooth going downhill, even when walking!

Keeping an eye on the time, I decided to cut through the middle of the course via the central trails that I'd been meaning to explore for some time.

The north-south trail that cuts through the middle of the park, sitting south of Kestrel Creek (although only the northern portion of this trail is on this map).
More kangaroos on the trail, which intersects the Kangaroo Views Strava Segment. Aptly named, huh?
It ended up being 9km by the time I reached the parkrun finish line. It wasn't too far off my planned 10km, and allowed me to catch the parkrunners as they moved from the pre-run briefing to the start line. I briefly said hello to Narelle, who had spent Christmas in the UK with her brother (and leaving the children here in Australia for her husband to look after - on his own!), and she told me she had only arrived in Melbourne a few hours earlier! THAT is parkrun committment! After finding my run with Wendy a few weeks ago nicely paced, I sought her out again, figuring that it would maximise my chances of accumulating 21km throughout the morning.

14km... so another lap of parkrun would get me a lot closer to that HM. By this point I was completely knackered. I had planned to have a banana between the first 10km and parkrun, but time meant that it didn't happen. I figured I would be able to complete the final 6km without the second banana... but it wasn't pretty and I needed to walk a lot of that fourth 5km split. By the time I reached the parkrun finish line again, Nicole Emma Rohan were still about packing up and processing results. I stopped and had a chat to them walking to their cars before heading off for my final 2km.

Run Director Nicole was heading off for a lap, so I thought I'd run to 20km with her and then do the final 1.1km to get to my car. I was very tired at this point so I went directly to the car rather than retracing my steps, so I still needed mileage by the time I got to the car. I grabbed the banana from my car and ate it as I walked down to the parkrun finish line... nup, still not 21.1km... back to the car... nup...  After a few laps of the carpark, I finally got it done.

My parkruns for the day were 28:56 for the reverse parkrun, [let's exclude the not-5km 4km], 32:07 for the actual parkrun, and 36:13 for the solo trip around the parkrun course. Tiredness obviously kicked in...

At least I now have a benchmark of where my HM time is at - although the lack of proper breakfast contributed to it. Also, as it was only my second HM, Strava recognised it as an achievement! Yay. Still, I'd rather that than an annual-based achievement. I know I've mentioned Smashrun having annual notables, but they're based on the past 12 months and not the actual year. It's what makes all this Strava treasure that'd being accumulated right now completely bogus, and annoying.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Westerfolds Wednesday: Double, no, Triple Trouble

6 parkruns in 3 weeks is quite exhausting - not only did Westerfolds parkrun have extra runs on both Christmas Day and New Year's Day, the New Year's Day event was a double-up with Diamond Creek parkrun! Plus Saturday's parkrun was hot. So I'm feeling a bit all-parkrunned-out!

I suppose I had it relatively easy on New Year's Day as I was the Run Director for the day! I found a ridiculous pair of "2015" sunglasses and donned them for the morning - although I have to sadly report that they did not fit under my visor when I went to run at Diamond Creek parkrun, and I don't run without a visor or cap unless I want to stop every few minutes to tie my hair up again!

I've always been the type to just chop my hair super-short when I reach this stage of length. But I am trying to persevere with it as it's virgin hair - chemically untainted. If I can grow it for another year or two (and not dye it, as tempting as being a red-head is), it'd be long enough to be donation hair.

New Year's Day, Westerfolds parkrun style
We ended up with a course record of 120 (13 more than our previous Course Record Attendance), and 85 of the 120 then headed up the road to Diamond Creek parkrun, along with a few of the volunteers for each parkrun event. One of the speedy parkrunners headed west to Highlands parkrun! No, I didn't trawl through everyone's results to dig that nugget out - he let me know on the day as he rushed off to his regular parkrun spot! I would have been tempted to do a Westerfolds/Berwick Springs double - but that didn't work out once I put my hand up to RD! Serves me right.

Despite the delayed 9.30am start, I still managed to be late to Diamond Creek parkrun as I needed to process the results before the kit was left with Emma, Saturday's RD. I was very good and didn't speed in the car, but did find myself running sub-PB-pace as I passed the tail-runner and finally spotted the familiar faces backs of Iwona and Nicole. I said hello, had a brief chat, and then rushed on to catch up with Jo, a Balyang Sanctuary regular who is a five30runner! She was at the Pakenham launch when I was timekeeping, and only ever attended Westerfolds parkrun when I was RD (our birthday party in October, and then that morning). I finally had my chance to run with her at Diamond Creek!

The late start meant I got a very nice view of parkrunners heading to the turn-around point AND parkrunners making their way back to the end! 
While I may not be the biggest fan of out-and-back courses, they do offer one thing that is pretty awesome - high-five opportunities!

High-fives (almost) everywhere!
Most people were pretty good at returning the high-fives. But a few found that wasn't their thing. Whatever - locusts and frogs! LOCUSTS AND FROGS!

And that was the New Year's Day Double! Well, mostly. I found the toilets were on the other side of the creek, near the startline (something I didn't have time to look for when I visited them the first time). There was also a post-parkrun breakfast at a nearby cafe, within walking distance if Diamond Creek parkrun, but I don't take photos of my food. And my strong long black was really just a long black. Locusts and frogs!


Two days later, and a number of us (13 if you're curious - not counting volunteers*) were at it again! It was 30℃ according to Smashrun - which doesn't actually sound all that bad, but it was the first run that felt like summer. I cruised around, chatting to Wendy, and we did aeroplane arms on the way down the hill. We still have work to do on our technique according to some Reddit users. Or we'll just go for Option B next time. Weeeeeee!!!!

Hello sunshine! Hello Westerfolds Park!
Oh, and we had our final parkrunner of the month award for 2014 announced - congratulations to Lee! She (and Wendy) are always among the first to put their hands up when we ask for volunteers at short-notice, and is a Westerfolds parkrun regular!

Westerfolds parkrun ED Scott presenting Lee with the parkrunner of the month trophy!
She's also a Tuesday trail-running regular when she doesn't have to drop kids off at school, and a real trooper when I ask, "Hey! Who wants to try that random path!?!" Or, in the case of yesterday's run - "Who wants to try that log!?!" Although it could be peer-pressure. Not sure... 

Smiling or grimacing?
And that's Valerie semi-photobombing. She's another Westerfolds parkrunner who hits the trails on Tuesday mornings!
I'm not sure what my parkrun plans are for this weekend. I intended to visit Point Cook last weekend, but I didn't really feel like it when I realised how warm it was that morning. Similarly, this weekend's forecast of rain makes being on the roads for longer than I need to be sound silly. We'll see how it plays out - otherwise I'll be at Westerfolds again, making propellor noises or yelling "Weeeeee!!!!" with Wendy down the hills.

* Because parkrun doesn't really acknowledge volunteers... oh, dang. Can't use that excuse anymore. Which is kinda awesome really! Incidentally, the whole "volunteer 3 times a year" thing means 8.3 years of parkrunning.