Cover Girl Interview

IMG_2727A couple of weeks back I opened the December issue of Runner’s World (Au & NZ) to see a photo taken in Fremantle six months ago at the launch of On My Feet•. I was in the photo, ergo I was in Runner’s World. It’s a tenuous claim to fame but I’ll take it. It was a tad ironic that this happened just a few days after I had my major falling out with running. Really I only opened the magazine in the airport newsagents because I was bored, and I’m too old and cynical to be lured by women’s glossies hollering at me on how to change my life – FOR THE BETTER! Instead, I wondered if I my running malaise extended to articles on post-run snacks and classic running mistakes (& how to avoid them). It did, it turns out.

So I posted a photo of the magazine feature and cover on Instagram. The model featured on the front – her name is Joyce – contacted me asking if I could send her a photograph of the cover. I couldn’t resist asking Joyce how she ended up on the cover. I know a lot of runners, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never come in contact, even virtual contact, with any that look like her. I was curious if she actually was a runner or if genetics had bestowed her with the appearance of the idealised runner’s body, as opposed to the real thing. Here’s my email interview with Joyce who is Dutch and in her twenties.

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Joyce’s Runner’s World cover.

ER: Do you actually run?

Joyce: In my free time I run once or twice a week. I like to run short distances. So I don’t run more then 10km. Besides that, I keep my body strong with power training.

ER: How long have you been modelling?

Joyce: I started modelling when I was 19. My first shoot was a campaign for the sport brand Asics. The following year, I did some other shoots for a sport brand in Holland (Perry Sport). After that I didn’t do so much modelling because I was studying sport education for four years which allowed me to improve at many sports. Every year while studying, I did my internship as a sports teacher at different schools. So as you can hear, I am a sporty person.

When I finished my studies, which was in 2013, I started modelling full time. I travelled to many places e.g. Barcelona, Milan, Athens, Paris, London, Miami and Cape Town.

ER: How did you end up on the cover of Runner’s World Australia & New Zealand?

Joyce: I did the shoot for Runner’s World magazine in Cape Town. I worked a half day with a great team. They save all the pictures of me and the other models for one year during which the Runner’s World magazines worldwide can decide which pictures they want to use. So I guess Australia liked my picture, haha:)

It was such a great pleasure to work for Runner’s World, one of the best experiences til now!:)

So there you go. It sounds like Joyce actually does work out a lot. And even more impressively, she wears her claim to fame lightly. Unlike other people who only managed to get their mug in a group shot on page 18 but think it’s worth blogging about. Some people!

On My Fee is a voluntary organisation that aims to use running to help the homeless and long-term unemployed build self esteem and create pathways to training and employment. I manage On My Feet’s social media accounts so you can boost my self-esteem by clicking like on the On My Feet Facebook page and following us on Twitter  @OnMyFeetAus and Instagram @OnMyFeetAu. Thank you:)

Faking it

Two weeks after my falling out with running, two weeks of assuming that any morning now, I’d wake up and have a desperate urge to run, and I’m in danger of becoming a non-runner. After pushing myself to do two short runs on Tuesday and Wednesday, the weekend is sliding by in a very stationary manner. I’m down to 25% of my normal mileage. I’m still wearing running clothes mind you – it turns out that some habits are harder than others to drop. I’m still clicking ‘Going’ on future running events on Facebook too, another habit. But really at the moment I ain’t going anywhere unless it’s in a car or via Netflix.

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I do still want to be a runner, and to some extent recognise that a few weeks’ rest, can’t be a bad thing. However, there is a danger that when I finally snap out of this fug, I discover that my fitness has taken a nose-dive, and end up totally frustrated. Well that IS what’s going to happen if I don’t get out there. So I have a choice: let this passion of mine that has served me so well for the past three and a half years slide into muffin-top, saddle-bag-sporting oblivion, or fake the love until it blossoms again for real.

And I think faking it in new environments, without a training plan, while reminding myself that I’m very lucky not to be injured, is the way back to joy. So, much like someone who hasn’t developed a gym habit but has paid up their membership and really does want to get in shape, I’m going to have to push myself to pound the trail, beach or pavement but without any target pace/distance/performance expectation. I probably should say without a Garmin watch too but come on, who am I kidding?! If it ain’t on Strava, it doesn’t count. Right?

So in the coming week, I am making a promise to myself to ignore the loud voice that urges me back to my computer and the post-breakfast kitchen mess (in that order unfortunately), and directing my car towards Bold Park, Kings Park, or some other goddamn park, or beach, or river path. I’m going to fake it until I make it back to pure running joy.

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When love goes sour

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Dear Running

There’s no easy way of saying this so I’ll be blunt – I think we need a break from each other. Just for a little while. I imagine this comes as a bit of a shock. At least, I didn’t see it coming. Yet, today, I know that if our relationship is to survive for the long-term – and I hope it does- some time apart is essential. I need time. Time to recover from yesterday’s race, time for my glutes, hips and back to relax, time away from you to rekindle what really has been an amazing mid-life romance.

We’ve had a great year! No injuries, ten joyous races, and PBs in 5km, 10km and 21.1.km distances. Until last week, things had never been better between us. Maybe it was the effort of that 5km PB at Champion Lakes parkrun last weekend, or it might have been the half marathon PR I inadvertently set at the WAMC Fremantle Half four weeks back. Or maybe I’m just too old and tired for a full-time commitment. It was probably a combination of these things that turned last week’s short, easy taper runs into drudgery on legs that felt like steel (as in stiff, not strong). Yet, despite these poor training efforts, I thought we’d get through yesterday’s Ironman 70.3 Mandurah race with our love intact. I believed in us. Alas, it wasn’t to be.

The first 10km went according to plan – 49 mins. Then, something went wrong. My legs turned to lead, and took my heavy heart with them. We let each other down. And you know, these things happen. I get that. After all, I’ve been married 17 years, so I know that you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth, but did you have to let me down on such an important event? Did our bust-up have to be the only race where my family stood by the sidelines cheering me on, telling me they loved me and that I was doing really great (when I really, really wasn’t)? Did it have to be the team event where my poor performance cost us a place in the rankings? I know, I know, 5th place is still pretty amazing when you show up vaguely hoping to make the Top 15, and my swimmer and cyclist really couldn’t have been more supportive, but still. Your timing was off – excuse the pun. And telling me that my time (1:52) wasn’t that bad is missing the point too so please stop saying that.

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The point is that I hated you for 11km yesterday. I hated you enough to walk a little bit. Yes, walk! Every step I took was miserable. All those cardio workouts were for nothing; my legs wouldn’t move fast enough to get me out of breath. By the end, I was running slower than an easy training run, and I loathed every step. I watched so many other runners, their mojo intact, their legs springing them across the finish line, and couldn’t help feeling slighted. What had I done wrong? All the time and energy I had invested in our relationship, and for what? To be grateful that at least the ice cubes at every fuel station kept my nausea at bay and I didn’t need to stop at the portaloo? I really thought we’d moved beyond that stage.

I’m going to take a few days rest. I might go for a walk or two. I will probably try a gym session to revive my weary muscles. I will analyse over and over what went wrong between us without much hope of an answer. I will avoid uploading yesterday’s run to my Strava profile until I feel resilient enough to review the graphic representation of our first major argument since we moved to Australia. Today, I honestly feel too fragile.

This morning, for the first time in three and a half years, I actually looked at runners, and felt meh, as if they belonged to another tribe. Ok, so I did go for walk. You can’t expect someone as passionate as I to turn into a total couch potato whatever our difficulties. A girl has her needs. I’m flying to Singapore on thursday for the weekend. I’m hopeful that I’ll feel like taking my Garmin with me. I’m guessing that by Friday, I’ll be checking out Active Wear in Under Armour. Maybe by Saturday, I’ll be missing you enough to get up at 5:30am and do a tropical parkrun, though to be honest, the way I’m feeling today, I think that’s highly unlikely. My Facebook feed (where I won’t change my relationship status – it’s just a break – honest!), so cluttered with running advice and anecdotes, has given me a headache – though this may also be due to dehydration. Today, I will tend to what are left of my toenails (don’t take this as a criticism!) and try make them look less repulsive – assuming I can bend down far enough to brandish tea tree oil and nail polish. I hope you understand that I need time to reassess our relationship and my expectations, to work through my fatigue and ennui (and bruised ego), and do the laundry created by five people going to Mandurah for one night. Be patient. I know we’ll get through this.

Best regards,

Jo

Off the Beaten Track

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Today, I crawled up out of my comfort zone and took my fear of everything that has feathers, beaks, fur, wings, scales, legs, or a pulse and ran with it around Bold Park, a nature reserve that is very close to my kids’ school. It’s surprising how noisy nature can be – between parakeets and crows squawking, unseen things slithering, flies buzzing and fluttering butterflies, it was akin to running through a haunted house for my nerves. But I completed the well-marked Zamia Trail (yellow line on the map) unscathed by swooping magpies, and my lungs got a good workout as the trail is undulating (very, very hilly in plain speech). I’m also pleased to report that there were no sightings of the four possums I had professionally evicted from my roof space over the past four months and relocated to Bold Park, the latest as recently as this week. That’s a non-running story for another day.

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SCKLM Preparation & WAMC Lake Gwelup Race

Lake Gwelup
Lake Gwelup

So now that all the hooha has died down over the change of date and re-change of date for the SCKL Marathon, the countdown to the race has begun. Only four weeks to go! Coincidentally I am going to be in KL with a friend that weekend as it’s school holidays and our respective spouses are taking our six children camping and we would rather pull our teeth out than sleep in a tent that doesn’t have ensuite facilities. In fact what we’d really rather do is stay at a five star hotel with ensuite facilities, and toilets where there are no snakes or deadly spiders lurking, and staff that open doors, and pour coffee, and carry your bags. We’d also rather have much-needed pedicures, and eyebrow threading, do no cooking or cleaning  – well you get the picture. We’re going to KL for a taste of the good life and now it turns out, I’m going to race.

Don't let the blue sky fool you - it was cold at race registration!
Don’t let the blue sky fool you – it was cold at race registration!

Last week, I was offered a media bib at SCKLM and it took me exactly zero seconds to say ‘yes please’ and only another few seconds to allow sense to prevail and choose the 10km race. Given the temperature and humidity, trying to race any further could be a disaster. Even when I lived and trained in Malaysia, the heat and humidity ruined many a race attempt so 10km on Oct 4th will be more than plenty thank you very much. I cannot tell you how excited I am to be returning to my old stomping ground, the place where I first fell in love with running, and to hopefully get to see many familiar, friendly faces in the KL running community.

So, this morning, in preparation for this tropical race which is no big deal, no big deal at all, I ran a local 10km race here in Perth. When I say in preparation I mean mental prep rather than physical. Bar running while wrapped in cling film and a heated body suit, there is little I can do to prepare for the conditions in KL. But I need to train my brain to push though the 5-6km mark slump and stay strong to the finish line, so this morning’s race was a stab at cognitive therapy if you like.

It was the West Australian Marathon Club (WAMC) Lake Gwelup 10km. It was 7ºC when I left the house and only a few degrees warmer at the start line. So, it was totally unlike any start line in Malaysia ever! It also turned out to be a multi-terrain course which was more challenging than I had expected but at least it wasn’t as hilly as last weekend’s City to Surf 12km for which my legs are still not thanking me.

FullSizeRenderI think I was the 9th female across the line which was very pleasing as the standard is really high here and I’m pretty old. Yes, I am. The winner of the 5km race this morning is 12 years old.12! Not even a teenager! She ran the course in sub-20. To be fair, she has probably been running longer than I have but I don’t think that’s the reason she’s so much faster! Bar placing little rockets in my shoes, I will never attain the racing speed of a fast teenager. Oh, that’s a bit depressing. Still, I should be grateful to be able to run at all I suppose, and I am! And I’m even more grateful to be able to return to KL, have an affordable pedicure, and run there. (Though perhaps I should run, then have the pedi?).

Now, I wonder where I can bulk buy cling film and find a heated body suit…

Suck it Up Runners or #SCKLM4October

I have never participated in the Standard Chartered KL Marathon event though I do have one unused half marathon bib (due to injury) from 2013. I no longer live in Kuala Lumpur and I have not registered for this year’s marathon. All of this makes me perfectly qualified to post a detached and well-reasoned post on the decision, announced yesterday, to move the race day back a week to Oct 10, 2015. Yet, I can’t, because even here in Perth, I find myself getting angry over the obvious disdain this decision shows towards runners, towards 35,000 runners who have committed their money, time and training to an event long-scheduled for Oct 4.

The change of date (and day, from Sunday to Saturday) is a political one, to allow the international event to coincide with the newly conceived National Sports Day run by the Malaysian Ministry of Youth & Sport. The National Sports Day has amongst its objectives: ‘promoting unity, stimulating economic growth, growing sporting knowledge and recognising sporting talent.’ Well congratulations, Dirigo Events, you’ve certainly managed to promote unity; unity of anger of thousands of SCKLM registrants who have taken to Facebook, Twitter and blogs to voice their outrage over the mixing of sport with politics with little apparent consideration for the people without whom the event couldn’t exist.

I’m astounded that Standard Chartered Bank would allow their brand to be tarnished by such shoddy treatment of race registrants, surprised that event organisers Dirigo didn’t anticipate the backlash, and very glad that I personally didn’t book flights and accommodation for KL for the race. I feel very bad for those that did.

There have been many reasoned comments made online about the consequences for overseas runners, including many Malaysians who have already booked travel from Sabah and Sarawak. Many commentators have also rightly voiced their dismay over allowing a politically-neutral sporting event to be hijacked for political purposes. There’s also the worrying issue of staging such a major event on a Saturday, a working day in KL, and the fact that the new date clashes with several other running events. How any of this serves to promote ‘economic growth, growing sporting knowledge and recognising sporting talent’ is beyond me!

What bugs me most is the apparent disdain SCKLM organisers have for the commitment made by runners to their event. It’s like organising a secular wedding then, once thousands of loyal friends have bought their outfits, booked their hotels and organised a babysitter, changing the date to suit one wealthy, but distant, acquaintance who is insisting on a Church service to help promote their parish. Well, stuff your wedding I’d say – and don’t bother inviting me at all next time!

There are plenty of races in Asia for those who want to travel. Plenty of races in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam that, as far as I am aware, value their runners and don’t flip flop over things as fundamental as race dates. There are plenty of races around KL for those who don’t travel too. Since 2009, SCKLM has been considered the premier running event in Malaysia, adhering to international standards that runners could rely on, and other event organisers could aspire to. Dismissing the commitment of 35,000 runners to keep politicians happy, as SCKLM has done this week, was a misguided move and one from which the event’s (and main sponsor’s) reputation will fail to fully recover. Unless of course, thousands of runners voicing their opinions online get their way and the original date is restored. Everyone can mistakes. The trick is in recognising and rectifying them.

UPDATE: July 16, 2015

Over the past three days there has been no statement from the organisers of SCKLM while runners continued to lobby on social media for the marathon to be returned to its original date of Oct 4. This afternoon, the Malaysian Minister for Youth & Sports, Khairy Jamaluddin, released a statement on his Facebook page announcing that the event would indeed revert to Oct 4. So, common sense prevails, the power of social media seem unassailable and Dirigo Events have been peculiarly mute throughout the whole debacle. Perhaps, silence in this case, speaks a thousand words.

Reunions (and a bit of stalking) in Paris

When I was nine, my best friends were twin girls, four years my senior, who lived next door. Their dad was a bank manager, so they were Irish nomads who moved house every few years. When I was nine, the twins and their siblings moved to a village in an adjacent county, Wexford, less than 100km from Kilkenny. Other than one visit to stay with them, when I vomited in the back of their dad’s car (from eating too many sweets on the sleepover), I never saw them again. I don’t think my spewing over the car was a contributing factor. The twins’ departure from my life was a major, sad event, one which I recall vividly. Back in the pre-internet days, when a telephone call to Wexford was prohibitively expensive, our friendship hadn’t a chance.

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My own children have bid goodbye to many friends during their short lives. When I chaperone their tearful leave takings, I insist on saying it’s not goodbye forever, it’s until next time. I recall the twins and the vomiting and I vow to do better. I mean it when I say that they will see their friends again even if they are moving to the other side of the planet. All this is a long introduction really into how last week I found myself in Paris with four teenagers, aged 12-15. Selfless mother that I am, I travelled from Dublin with my two daughters, to meet up with my eldest’s two friends who now live in Houston and San Francisco. One of the friends, who is Dutch, lived in Paris for 8 years before relocating to Perth, where we first met and understandably his family love the city so much that they visit annually en route to the Netherlands. Spending time in Paris with people who know where to go, how to get there, and can suggest great places to eat, while also being great company, really makes for a spectacular holiday. I might even go as far as saying that I relaxed and enjoyed myself. I know! Incredible! IMG_1089

After five great days of being tourists with insider guides who didn’t charge a fee we took a taxi to Charles de Gaulle Airport to return to Ireland. Our reunions hadn’t finished yet however. Serendipity meant that another friend of my daughter’s, from our time in Kuala Lumpur, was arriving in Paris from Toronto, and we managed to meet her and her mother for coffee and a catch-up. Yes, my children do think such meetings and international travel are normal, no matter how much I try and explain that they’re not. The Wexford situation is beyond their comprehension in this instant messaging age.

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As we approached the airline check-in desk, I spied the familiar figure of Colm Tóibín, probably Ireland’s most famous living writer, coincidentally from the friend-robbing county of Wexford. I was as excited as a teenager bumping into Harry Styles but managed to keep my rapture under wraps channelling my energy instead into explaining to the check-in lady in Frenglish exactly whom she had just served. She was oblivious to Mr Tóibín’s celebrity status and possibly thought I was slightly mad. I’d met Mr Tóibín a couple of times at Kilkenny Arts Festival a few years back but remarkably he didn’t seem to recognise me (!). I’m pathetically bad at shoving myself forward (while sober) so this particular reunion was wordless and only experienced by one party. Some people might call it stalking but I promise, it was inadvertent. Remarkably no one else appeared to recognise him during all the time we sat in the departure lounge – he on his laptop, me pretending not to be watching him on his laptop, or back in Dublin airport in the line for Passport Control, me admonishing my daughters for staring, lest he actually notice me – for the wrong reasons. I guess not everyone thinks that writers are like rock stars but this brush with multi-Booker-nominated celebrity, whose career I’ve long coveted, topped off what turned out to be one of the best weeks I’ve had in years.

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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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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.

fitzgerald Book

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!