Ireland 2015

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Yesterday I did my first non-Australian parkrun in my home town, Kilkenny, something I’ve been looking forward to for months. But I’m not going to write about it yet. I can’t, because I forgot to take a photo of the delicious scones topped with fresh cream and jam which we ate at the Castle Cafe afterwards and being a diligent blogger, who likes things to be complete, I plan to return to Kilkenny parkrun next weekend and take a photo of the after-run delights. I’ll probably run as well:)

IMG_1014I’ve been in Ireland a week and I’ve done much of my running around the Castle Park where parkrun is held. Today though I ventured a bit further afield, and actually ended up IN a field. There is a trail that runs along the River Nore from Kilkenny to Bennetsbridge, and beyond, for around 11km I think but I did not end up on that trail today, despite my best navigation efforts. I was, it turns out, on the wrong side of the river. Still, I took lots of lovely photos of the scenery I took for granted as a child. I was mulling around in the ruins of the old mill when I got an SMS to say my lunch was on the table at my mother’s house. The delights of being home.

I’ve posted the rest of the photos on my Facebook page. Tomorrow I head to Paris with my daughters for a few days. I don’t know if I’ll manage to persuade them to let me run but I’ll try as we’re staying very near the Bois de Boulogne which must be a good place to run. No doubt there will be plenty of Eiffel tower snaps to follow. Á Bientôt:)

HBF Run for a Reason 2015

The HBF Run for a Reason mascot wearing the event t-shirt.
The HBF Run for a Reason mascot wearing the event t-shirt.

I’m pretty sure that the first time I ran in Perth, some time last winter (summer if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere), I ran past at least one person wearing an HBF Run for a Reason t-shirt. It seems that over the past nine months, those blue t-shirts have been EVERYWHERE (on runners). I haven’t yet spotted them in a shopping mall. Well, since Sunday, there are a further 31,700 HBF Run for a Reason t-shirts in circulation. Even I now have one.

IMG_0004The HBF Run for a Reason is one of Perth’s largest fundraising community runs which attracts runners, walkers, strollers and the odd elite. This year there were three distances on offer: 4km, 12km, and the new 21.1km. I opted for the 12km as I’d already registered for a half marathon in May and I’m trying to be sensible in my old age. This also meant an extra 90 minutes in bed which is not to be sniffed at at any age.

IMG_0817I have nothing but good to say about this year’s Run for a Reason. Over $1,257,466 was raised through runner fundraising and donations at registration for charities such as the Cancer Council, Diabetes WA, Lifeline WA, and the Heart Foundation WA. Many runners had specific reasons for running such as raising money in memory of a loved one or for a charity for which they had a close affinity. My reasons were fun, celebrating the Yes victory in the Irish marriage Equality Referendum, and gratitude for being healthy enough, and having the freedom, to run in this great city. Crossing the line in under 60 mins was a vague hope but not a deal breaker.

As with many major events in Perth, extra public transport services were provided, free of charge to participants. There were plenty of clean empty, portaloos in the CBD near the race start site which in my book is a kind of victory in itself. The start line was very well managed, with lots of clear signage for different start waves depending on participants anticipated race time. The atmosphere before, during and after the run was fabulous – Perth was teaming with happy people on Sunday morning. The 12km race started bang on time. The route was populated by enthusiastic volunteers and music and well-wishers. My shins were killing me for the first 8km but I soldiered on and crossed the line in 58:11 mins, dry-heaving over the line. Next time, I’ll take a gel 40 mins into the race to stave off this inglorious race finish action. IMG_0002

Finishers received isotonic drinks, water and bananas as they completed their run/walk in Gloucester Park. A timing mat on the way to the exit allowed runners to check their chip race time, something I’ve never seen at any other race but which really is a great idea. Bags dropped off the previous day at Perth Arena were ready for collection after the run, an essential for those like me who are totally intolerant of the cold. Shuttle buses worked efficiently in ferrying finishers back to the CBD to catch free public transport home again. Or in my case to a soccer game.

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The Finish area at Gloucester Park. A sea of blue t-shirts.

The only quibble I’d have is that it would be nice to give all finishers, not just the 21.1km runners, a medal. I’d much rather a medal than a t-shirt I’ll never wear as I only run in singlets. Still, from the main sponsor, HBF’s, point of view, I can see that the t-shirt is a better marketing tool. Did I mention that they are EVERYWHERE?

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Race timings as published in the West Australian newspaper on Monday.
Race timings as published in the West Australian newspaper on Monday.

Busselton 70.3 Relay 2015

Finally I ran a half marathon in which I felt undefeated by the distance. That’s HM:9-Me:1 Yay! It was the run leg of the Busselton Half Ironman Relay and it finally put to bed the threat of my headstone reading: Here lies the Expat Runner who never ran a half marathon without a tonne of excuses for why she should have done better. 

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Last saturday, not only did I put one foot in front of the other without stopping for 21.1km, but I didn’t complain about doing so either. For once, I was not swearing ‘never again’ under my breath – or worse, aloud. I didn’t stop to go to the toilet either which alone merits a medal. I shouted out ‘so far so good’ to my team mate around the 15km mark which I can absolutely, categorically say never occurred to me to even think, not to mention say, during any other race ever before. Her reply, by the way was ‘remember the roos’ referring to the fact that we needed to get on the road for the three-hour journey back to Perth before twilight to avoid colliding with kangaroos, several of which we’d seen in the form of roadkill on the journey to Busselton. I laughed and ran on with renewed, roo-avoiding, determination. Love my team!

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Finish line HAPPY!

The course was very flat which helped. The weather conditions were also perfect – sunny, with a breeze, and low humidity. Our team name, ‘I’ve a Feeling We’re Not in KL Anymore’ couldn’t have been more apt. Unlike the other two Half Ironman team events I have done, the Busselton race holds the teams back from starting until most of the triathletes have finished the course. I anticipated this as a negative as I’d previously loved running amongst tough  – and slightly insane- triathletes. On saturday, most of these guys and gals were knocking back a beer or two by time I started running, turning the team event into a team race. Which worked out pretty well in the end as it obliterated the guilt over being a lightweight and not attempting the full triathlon. The fact that the course was three loops turned out to be mental bonus rather than a challenge too as once one 7km loop was complete, you knew exactly what lay ahead.

And so finally, I ran a half marathon that felt like a celebration of my training, that relied on my legs, lungs and mind without being undermined by a miserable digestive system.  I crossed the finish line happy, even before looking at my watch. The fact that I knocked over 2 minutes of my previous HM time was a bonus though it really felt like it was my due. I was capable of running that time – 1:47:45 – a year ago at Borneo International Half Marathon in much higher temperatures and humidity but my stomach let me down, I suspect because of dehydration, leaving me limping over the line at the end.

At Busselton, I was very, very diligent with my hydration. Perhaps starting at 13:45 helped too as I had hours of fuel – and nervous waiting – in me as I started which is never the case for a morning race. And of course it wasn’t really hot or humid.

I actually could have run faster but didn’t want to risk it lest it backfire in my intestines. I finished strong, passing a guy only a few hundred metres from the finish chute. I managed the same at the ASICS Bridges 10km a few weeks ago, passing people on the home Busso_finish2straight whose butts I’d been eyeing up for several kilometers. Mind you, at Busso, a girl half my age if even, ran past me 200m from the finish line, robbing my all-female team of a top-10 finish by 9s so I can’t be smug. Still, to get 11th out of almost 70 teams for three women in their mid-forties, with seven children between them, in an environment as competitive as Western Australia, racing against ‘kids’ in their twenties and thirties, was astounding. I’m certain we got first place for the team, irrespective of gender, with the longest team name. I was lucky to have a really supportive, sporty and good-humoured team.

So, the easy course and weather and the mid-day start aside, why I am feeling stronger than before towards the end of a race, when I have a history of flagging, and flagging badly at that?  I certainly didn’t train any harder for this event than for previous races though I was free of the ITB injury that affected my previous two half marathons. Essentially, I think I trained smarter.

Running 80% of my runs slowly, and 20% fast seems to be paying off. Besides giving me the ability to run faster on race day, the 80:20 system has improved my fatigue resistance and kept me injury-free. I’m also doing one or two gym sessions a week to build up my core, upper body, and glute strength.

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Will I be trying to run faster next time? Of course I will try but I won’t be disappointed if I don’t achieve another PB. If I run a good race that reflects my training efforts, that doesn’t upset my stomach, that allows my legs to do their best, I’ll be happy. If I run another 21.1km without saying ‘never again’ at the 14km mark, I’ll consider that an achievement. If I cross the finish line smiling, instead of grimacing and complaining, I’ll be feeling like it’s a personal best, irrespective of the numbers on my watch. Roll on Perth Half Marathon in August.

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Cottesloe parkrun Launch

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The start and finish point for Cottesloe parkrun.

You know I’m already a big fan of parkrun but this morning parkrun just got a little bit better (for me). Cottesloe parkrun launched within running distance of home. Yay! Half an hour longer in bed and a warm-up built into the journey.  Sounds too good to be true? Well good no, but tough, well hell yes!

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Part of the Cottesloe parkrun route

Cottesloe parkrun’s location is stunning, on the beachfront along a path on which I’ve clocked hundreds of kilometres in the past nine months. This morning I think there were about 55 parkrunners some of whom I was delighted to discover I knew already, and not just on Facebook or Strava:)

For the first two kilometres I think I recognised every crack in the pavement. The thing is that to avoid colliding with dogs and walkers further along the beachfront at the aptly-named Dog Beach, the parkrun route must deviate off the path down onto the beach. Almost 1km of the 5km route is in sand. Yes, in not on! This morning’s run felt like a bootcamp, trudging to exhaustion along the beach; my legs were so grateful for the solid surface of the boardwalk back onto the path that it felt churlish to complain about the very, very steep incline. It took a kilometre for my legs to recover from the sand trudging, my 5km time was almost 2 mins slower than usual, and I crossed the finish line calling the beach a b**tch BUT would I do it again?

Hell, yes! What a great workout. If nothing else, Cottesloe parkrun will make other parkruns seem easy in comparison and I’m sure that the sand running must be a great training device. Something that feels that tough and ludicrous must be good for you, right?

To be honest when news of this parkrun surfaced several months back, I was sceptical of how it would work with so many walkers, runners and cyclists already using the path. This morning though this didn’t feel like an issue, mainly I think as there were very few cyclists along the stretch of path and I’m used to having to swerve around walkers.

So, if you’re looking for a parkrun with a little extra challenge, or just want to run 5km by, and on, the beach, head to Cottesloe. My usual parkrun at Heirisson Island has been on hiatus for while but once it’s up and running again – did you see what I did there? – I will try alternate between the two locations.

As there are no parkruns in Australia next weekend due to Anzac Day 100th anniversary, the next event is on May 2  I won’t be there as I’ll be at the Busselton Half Ironman team relay, a story for another day.

PHOTOS from Cottesloe parkrun #1.

My 80/20 Update

I’ve been trying to implement the strategy advocated by Matt Fitzgerald in his book 80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster by Training Slower. This week, I haven’t run any session, other than my interval session, faster than 5:50min/km which hasn’t been easy, especially when it means allowing lots of other runners to sail past. Yes, running slow means leaving your ego at home. To be honest, it’s been hard to shake the suspicion that all this slow running business is in fact making me, well, slower.

However, today I got a little boost and possibly an indicator that this 80/20 thing may be working, even though it is still early days. I took 40s off my 5km time at Bibra Lake parkrun this morning while feeling much more comfortable than on previous attempts (despite the ill-advised breakfast I’d had before heading out the door). I took it easier than usual at the start of the run – getting caught in a crowd kinda helps with that – and had enough strength in my legs to pass all the other women bar the one, a teenager whom I never even saw. She whizzed around in a ‘slow for her’ 21 mins. I’d like to come back as her in my next life.

In the meantime, I’ll stick with the 80/20 system; it still feels counter-intuitive most days, but it makes sense when you read the science behind it. I haven’t finished the book yet, but will post the salient nuggets of information, once I have.

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Not bad for an old bird.

Running Slow to Get Faster

Yesterday I started a Training Peaks Half Marathon plan designed to get me across the finish line at the Busselton Half Ironman relay in 1:45. Well, I signed up for the plan two months ago when May seemed a long way off and I still believed in miracles! The schedule for Monday said 8km easy, so I ran 8km maybe not easy but strong, but not pushing too hard. It was one of the best training runs I had done in weeks. My Garmin watch, which is still under warranty, is out of action at the moment. I had to send the faulty charging cable to Garmin Australia in NSW for repair/replacement. So yesterday, I couldn’t actually see my pace as I ran. I was running purely by feel, recording the run using the Strava App. I felt great! My average pace turned out to be 5:10min/km. My last kilometre was sub 5mins. I guess I got a bit carried away with myself but it felt so good!

When I got home I checked the training plan again and noticed for the first time that the pace indicated for the run was just under 6min/km. Not only that but this pace doesn’t increase for any of the non-interval runs throughout the 10-week plan. Surely this must be a mistake. How can you go out and run 21.1km at 5min/km pace or faster when most of your training runs are done at a minute slower per kilometre!? I dismissed the plan as lightweight.

As Monday progressed, my energy levels did the opposite. I was zonked. Today’s planned interval session didn’t happen at all. It’s almost 3PM and I’m still dressed to run but the only run I’m doing soon is the school run, in a car. So as fabulous as I felt in the immediate aftermath of yesterday’s 8km, I’m not feeling somewhat deflated. Day two of a plan and I’ve already skived. Day 1 and I’ve already over-trained. So what to do?

Well, buy a book of course! And finish a novel. I should slip that in too that instead of running today, I had a little nap then finished a novel I’ve been working on for three years. No one has read it yet so it could be complete tosh but at least it is completed tosh.

Back to my purchase. It’s called 80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster by Training Slower. Its main message is that in order to run faster, runners need to train slower. Yes, its counter-intuitive but the premise is based on scientific studies and analyses of athletic performance. I’m still sceptical but I think it’s worth a read. Certainly, the press coverage for the book has been very positive.

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It’s hard to run slow when you feel you can run faster. It’s also hard on the ego to deliberately run slower that you are capable of 80% of the time, then display the fact on Strava. Well it is for me! That said, my constant attempts to run every run as fast as is comfortable without pushing too hard isn’t paying dividends other than in measures of frustration as I’m not actually getting any faster. I’m feeling tired and heavy legged a lot of the time, and I am developing new aches and pains on a weekly basis.

So, I’m ready to try something new, ready to slow down if it really means I’ll stay injury-free and run faster in the long run. I’ll let you know what I think of the book. I’ll let you know too how long it takes Garmin to return my cable!

View from the Finish Chute

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WAMC Club Rooms, Burswood, WA.

Yesterday evening I went to my first race event of 2015, not as a runner, but as a volunteer. Taking out family membership of the West Australian Marathon Club (WAMC) in Spring 2014, several months before we left Kuala Lumpur, smacked of good intentions but in reality setting up a new life got in the way of actually participating in any (bar one, on my own) event. I rejoined without the family for 2015 and one of the conditions of membership was volunteering for at least two club race events this year. The Burswood 5km Twilight Run seemed like a good option as it was an evening race and only 25 minutes from home at the WAMC’s club rooms.

It was nice to ‘rock up’ – that’s Australian for turn up by the way – without the usual pre-race nerves. Just the other kind of ‘I hope I don’t mess up’ nerves. Collecting money from non-registered non-member entrants was easy – there were only 16. My other job was to call out the number of each runner as they crossed the finish line and indicate if they were female. My fellow volunteer – now my Facebook friend who I plan to meet at a race next weekend – did a great job of noting down the numbers on the results list.

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And they’re off! The start of the Burswood Twilight 5km Race.

I think race finish lines must be some of the happiest places on earth, even if happiness comes in the form of tears of relief and vomiting. For the record there was no actual puking last night, but one lady was on the verge of retching. The majority of runners – there were 173 – wore WAMC club bibs which are made of fabric and pinned on the front of the torso. They are the kind of bibs that, if only pinned on with two pins, blow in the wind or fold over. I had to ask a few men to unfurl their low hanging bibs as I didn’t want to touch their bits. Thankfully I didn’t declare any men as females nor vica versa even though there were a couple of people, including kids, whose gender wasn’t clear until I got a close-up in the chute. It’s a short hair thing. Age-wise, runners ranged from around 6 or 7 to upper-80s. Most of the kids ran faster than I would have. Sigh.

Pencil at the ready....
Pencil at the ready….
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The finisher chute wasn’t empty for long.

All in all it was a lot of fun to greet finishers, and congratulate them on a job well done. It was also a real eye-opener into how fast runners are here.

Last night’s winner was Gerard Hill with a time of 16:21 in hot windy conditions. That’s 3:16 minutes per kilometre. The fastest lady, 22-year-old Hannah Castle, took a mere 18:41 minutes to complete the 5km (3:44 minute kilometres). I don’t think I could move that fast on a bike! Speaking of wheels, the fourth man across the line ran 17:06 – pushing a large toddler in a stroller. These elite runners made running look effortless. The winner popped over the line looking as if he’d been for an easy jog. Really, every person who ran last night was a winner, though only the top 3 finishers of each gender got medals. Even the lady who, on finishing, declared her run a personal worst was a winner in my eyes. At least she went out there and made an effort, which is more than most people (including me) did on a sunny Sunday evening.

So, it has only taken six months, but finally I think I’m doing as planned – using running to meet people. And last night, I didn’t even have to get all worked up with worry over running. I might be on to something…

Race results:

WAMC Burswood Twilight 5km

Sun going down over the Swan River at the WAMC rooms in Burswood.
Sun going down over the Swan River at the WAMC rooms in Burswood.

Happy New Year

IMG_0838I spent 279 hours running in 2014. That is 279 hours of free therapy, meditation and physical exercise combined with friendship, competition, toe-nail loss, and some sunburn on the bits I couldn’t reach. Even counting the miserable hour limping to the finish of Borneo International Marathon, and the few training runs that were frustrating and painful, I don’t regret a single moment of the 2250km I covered. I ran in the dark in Malaysian smog with inspirational, supportive women, and interrupted Catherine Ndereba, the Marathon Queen’s dinner. She was eating pasta in case you wondered. I got injured (ITBS) because of my weak butt, sought treatment from physiotherapists on three continents, and became reasonably accomplished at the single leg squat. I ran 10km in 48 mins, discovered a love of running skirts, and completed the Angkor Wat Half Marathon without stopping to use the bathroom. I know, I was quite the overachiever in 2014! I reluctantly left the friendliest running community in the world to move to Australia where no one knew that I’d appeared in Expatriate Lifestyle Malaysia, not once, but twice. In running gear of course, before anyone thinks I got photographed at some glamorous social event. I completed the running leg of two Half Ironman’s in furnace-like conditions and came to the same conclusion each time – ice cubes stashed in one’s bra are essential for hydration, triathletes are awesome and crazy, and I secretly wish I was one. With that in mind, I bought a racing bike but haven’t saddled up since I test drove it outside the shop in May. If I was going to mention goals for 2015, I might segue off there but I won’t as swimming is a major challenge, and these days I spend a disproportionate amount of time running by the beach, watching out for sharks in the sea. I have been in the water precisely once. Speaking of wildlife, I discovered the Australian magpies can be not only unfriendly but violently confrontational. Thankfully, Australian people are far more welcoming and better behaved. A lot of them run but it seems that even more of them cycle; swarms of lycra-clad pedal-pushers appear on the roads every Saturday and Sunday, and I’ve heard rumours that the real die-hards are out on weekdays too. I discovered parkrun which is a fabulous community of runners who gather every Saturday morning to run 5km with barcodes in their pockets. It’s organised by volunteers, one of whom is always a photographer, which is a massive relief because having grown used to the paparazzi at races in KL, I was getting seriously worried that I’d never ever be tagged in a running photo again! Finally, if there is a singular running achievement worthy of mention, it must be the fact that I did not fall flat on my face, wrists, elbows or knees once in 2014. That’s an improvement of 300% over 2013. You can’t ask for better than that.

So cheers runners – and walkers who don’t yet know they are runners – thank you for accompanying me on some of my kilometres this year, either in person or via the power of the Internet. Here’s to moving forward, and continuing to put one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.

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Race report: Angkor Wat Half Marathon 2014

AngkorWat3At the start line of this year’s Angkor Wat Half Marathon, rather than worrying about the 21.1km ahead, my mind was preoccupied with the issue of gender inequality. Lofty thoughts however they were not. I was eyeing the back of a runner, a male runner, who was peeing against a tree. Not fair! I needed the loo too, despite having just been to the portaloo, but with only minutes to go to the starting gun, I wasn’t going to risk missing the start of the race. Been there, done that! While I was feeling hard done by, other runners were climbing a mound of rocks to view Angkor Wat temple in all its sunrising glory. There can’t be many start lines to match this one but as ever my mind was (wishing I was) in the toilet.

The outfit. During the first km I saw a woman wearing the same skirt.
The outfit. During the first km I saw a woman wearing the same skirt.

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Blinking bladder aside, the race went very well. I got stuck behind a thousand runners at the start, but managed to weave through so that by the second kilometre I was doing a comfortable pace. I wasn’t going to risk ruining the race by racing; this was my chance to exorcise the misery of the previous year and savour the delight of running in such a special, and thankfully flat, place. Unfortunately after much mithering, I had opted not to take along my phone to take photos as I was already carrying a fuel belt. I sort of hoped I’d meet lots of people who’d take pictures and share them but that didn’t happen so here I am writing about running in a beautiful, special place with little photographic evidence. The photos I do have are from a family trip back in December 2012.

As usual, crowds of locals cheered on runners. I high fived as many kids as I could. My eight-year-old’s index finger spends a lot of time tucked into his right nostril but I put thoughts of hygiene aside; these kids probably had better manner’s than mine anyhow. Water stations provided small water bottles which is a waste really as most runners ditched the bottles after only a few sips. The volunteers were excellent at opening the caps and handing the bottles over and there was no issue of crowding at water stops as the route is wide and the runners were well spread out after a few kilometres. Kids collected the bottles for recycling all along the route so at least someone was benefiting from the excess of plastic.

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Typical road along the route. My socks turned orange from the dust.

I didn’t stop. I counted my steps to distract me from negative thoughts and worries. I barely looked at my watch. And until about 17km, all was going really well. I dared to think that I was actually enjoying myself. Then I started to feel a bit whoozy, a bit like motion sickness, a too familiar feeling from previous half marathon races. At least this time, the race was almost done when discomfort hit. I kept going, a little slower, but determined that I wasn’t going ruin yet another race. I can see from the official race photos that I must have been hurting by the end as my head is hanging and I’m staring at the ground, willing one foot in front of the other. At this stage, the 21.1km runners had merged with the 10km runners/walkers so more and more supporters – friends, family and fellow runners – stood along the verge, cheering people on. I seriously could have given one particular cheering American lady a big hug for telling me I was ‘awesome’  – I felt like sh*t – but that would have meant stopping and that wasn’t an option if I wanted to finish. Around the same time, I spotted monkeys hanging out of a tree. After all my years in Asia, monkeys are still a novelty and they served as a timely reminder that for an Irish ‘girl’ who discovered running mid-life, running around 12th century temples in Cambodia is a freakin’ amazing experience even with a nauseous stomach and heavy legs. Such thoughts got me to the end.

The south gate of Angkor Thom at the 19km mark.
The south gate of Angkor Thom at the 19km mark.

And I finished, happy for once. It was the fastest half marathon I had run but more than anything I was relieved that I hadn’t had a miserable race experience, only one that got mildly miserable near the end. When the official race results came out, my chip time was 1:50:59, a few seconds under what I had on my Garmin. I cared but I didn’t. I’d done such a good job of telling myself that my time didn’t matter that I had come to really believe it. I never run my fastest on race days but at least on this race day I had managed to run faster than on others without totally losing the gut plot (as I did last year at Angkor Wat and back in May at Borneo International Marathon.) I think the problem is low fuel and hydration which next time I will try remedy with a second gel at 14km.

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I’m still injured of course. My ITB hurt from 9km but I could run. It hurt a hellava lot more once I crossed the finish line. I was limping for the rest of the day. But it was worth it because for the first time in 7 half marathons, I didn’t wish I was somewhere – anywhere! – else. You could say that I took the endure out of endurance. The phrase ‘never again’ did not even enter my mind; that certainly was a first!

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Finisher medals from 2013 and 2014.

As for the bladder? Well I showed it who was boss. After bargaining with it that I would stop behind a tree – as I saw numerous men do along the route – it gave up nagging at about 10km. In fact it went into a coma and didn’t bother me for another six hours. If I ever run in Cambodia again – it really is a long trip from Perth but this year it was certainly worth it – I’ll make the effort to climb up and gaze at Angkor Wat as the sun rises. I might even take my phone along to take photos. For the record, I don’t really have any desire to be a man, though on my arrival in Cambodia, my wish was momentarily granted.

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For a  Buddhist country, the Cambodians certainly make a massive effort for Christmas. The decorations in Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim nation, were also amazing. (I stopped of in KL on my way to and from Siem Reap).
For a Buddhist country, the Cambodians certainly make a massive effort for Christmas. The decorations in Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim nation, were also amazing. (I stopped of in KL on my way to and from Siem Reap).

My new race recipe

A 2012 trip to Angkor Wat.
A 2012 trip to Angkor Wat.

Given my enthusiasm for registering for races, I’m a pretty lousy racer. Every single time I have crossed a finish line, I have complained about at least one (but usually two or three) of the following:

  • I got a stitch.
  • I had shin splints for the first 5 km.
  • I felt like vomiting for half the race though I was barely jogging.
  • I needed the loo for the entire race.
  • I used the loo during the race.
  • I ran out of fuel.
  • My back/leg/foot hurt.
  • It was too bloody hot.

After Angkor Wat Half Marathon last December, I crossed the finish line shivering from low blood sugar, complaining about every single one of the above. Which is of course why I’m travelling all the way back to Angkor Wat this weekend, via Malaysia, to try again. I need to exorcise the ghost of Dec 2013 by which I mean make it through the 21.1km without a dash to the loo.

Peninsula2014Lately, I had given up on running a decent race, you know one that reflected my training, and not my sensitive gut, performance anxiety, tight calves, inflamed ITB, pissy posterior tibialias, and the dodgy caps on my fuel bottles. Then when I least expected it, it finally happened. At the Western Australia Marathon Club (WAMC)’s 10km Peninsula Run last sunday, I crossed the finish line not only happy but astounded. I could not think of a single thing to complain about. I had run strong and consistently without a stitch, nausea or shin splint, faster than I had ever run before (48:28 according to Strava) – faster than I had ever thought that I could. Unfortunately there was no one I knew there as I crossed the line to witness this miracle so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Besides the obvious fact that a 10km distance is probably a much better distance for me (and my still tender ITB) than 21.1km, I thought about what I had done this time to see if I could possibly replicate it.

My race recipe:

  • I ate steak and drank three glasses of champagne the night before. I doubt this is in the elite handbook.
  • I slept terribly. Nothing new there.
  • I got up at 5AM (it was already bright which made it easier than those dark early starts in KL).
  • I ate a toasted English muffin with butter and jam two hours before the race. No more pre-race oatmeal. I think that may have been last year’s big mistake.
  • I ran 1km slowly then stretched before the race. I reckon this was a big factor in avoiding shin splint pain for the first half or the race.
  • I did not look at my pace while I ran but focussed on my cadence and form whilst doing short sprints to pass people all along the route. At the rate my eyesight is deteriorating, looking at my watch and actually seeing numbers will not be an option for much longer anyway.
  • I didn’t stop at the water stations as I was carrying enough in a handheld bottle. I know that if I had slowed or stopped I wouldn’t have been able to resume my running ryhthm.
  • I ate three jellybeans during the race as I’d run out of GU chews.
  • I spent 48 minutes thinking ‘I’m so glad that this is only 10km. I couldn’t run a further 11.1km’.

This unexpected PB that has given me a little morale boost after about six months of rehabilitation and self-doubt. In a way, I feel that it gives me license to relax a bit (yeah like pass the personality transplant!) and try and enjoy this year’s Angkor Wat Half Marathon.

My WAMC bib finally got an airing.
My WAMC bib finally got an airing.

The champagne and steak maybe hard to come by in Siem Reap, and the toasted English muffin at some godawful hour may also be unattainable, but I will attempt to warm up and stretch, have jellybeans and working fuel caps at the ready, and not look at my watch as I run. In addition to my multi-excuses last year, the fact that I didn’t make it to the start line in time for the starter gun as the race started 5 minutes early was a bit of a bummer, especially having travelled all the way from Malaysia and making it as far as the portaloo queue with time to spare, or so I thought. The race is starting 20 minutes earlier this year, presumably to allow runners to fall over each other in the dark before watching the sun rise over the temple at the end of their first kilometre. (Yes I’m that anal that I’ve checked the sunrise time for Sunday. Normal, right?). The bonus will be that there are so many people I know travelling from KL for the race that there will be plenty of familiar faces at the finish line. Feel free to start placing bets on which complaint I spout first – I’m thinking it will be: ‘I’m going to stick to 10km races in future’. Let’s see.