Perth Marathon 2016

There’s so much I want to say about Perth Marathon but travel and jetlag have delayed my race report a tad. The short version is that the race went so much better than I had hoped and turned out to be more enjoyable than most of the twelve half marathons I’ve run since October 2012. Crossing the line in 3:55:07  rendered me a sobbing mess in the arms of my husband and daughters who had managed the logistics of cheering me on, at various stages along the course, around a soccer match.

I learned a lot from this marathon, the biggest lesson being about pacing. And determination. At a certain point, around 34km, determination overcame fatigue, a headwind, and a sore ITB. I will write more in detail at some point in the future. In the meantime, here are some photos🏃🏻🏅😀

 

Moving & marathoning

Several of the thousands of people I’ve informed about my upcoming marathon aspirations have wondered why, if I’m only going to do one, I haven’t opted for an iconic event such as the Melbourne or London Marathons. I want to play it safe, I’ve said. I want to keep the stakes (and costs) as low as possible lest I don’t make it to the start line due to illness or injury. And I want to sleep in my own bed, eat in my own kitchen, minimise the variables (and stress) as best I can if I make it to race day intact. Best laid plans, as they say.

Just over three weeks to race day and one thing I know for certain. I will not be sleeping in my own bed the night before. My bed, and the rest of our furniture, will be in storage in Welshpool and our family of five will be living out of a couple of Samsonites and a few cardboard boxes. Our landlord is not renewing our lease and thanks to a shortage of decent properties in the rental market and the glacial pace of productivity of those tasked to ‘help’ us relocate, we have not secured a new lease before the expiry of the old. Hence the storage and the suitcases, and as yet booked temporary accommodation. In two weeks time the packers will be let loose with their rolls of brown tape and cardboard boxes, while I double and triple check that all my race gear (and the three kids) stay out of their reach. So it seems that I will end up having to plan marathon day accommodation and travel, and make a race weekend packing list after all. It will be like having the excitement of an out-of-town race experience without actually leaving town. Best laid plans indeed.

Lesson 1326 – NEVER EAT FISH & CHIPS THE NIGHT BEFORE A RACE

 

IMG_2956.JPGThe thing is that I was over hungry. A soccer club committee meeting had gone over time and lunch had been on the light side so that by 18:30, I was starving. Perhaps if I hadn’t eaten quite so many chips, I’d have been fine. Anyway, it turned out to be far too big an ask to digest oodles of starch deep-fried in oil while simultaneously trying to sleep before arising at 5:20 for my last WAMC event of 2015. They say that the hard work is in getting to the start line. Well for this even that certainly was the case! This morning, as I nibbled on my pre-race toasted muffin, feeling strangely unhungry, and listened to the rumblings of a tummy that had been audible all night throughout strange dreams including the usual can’t find the start line/my shoes/both race panic dream, I knew I wasn’t going to see any start line or finish line today. It was a shame because I knew the route – 8km between City Beach and Floreat- by heart as it’s one of my regular training routes. Still, an hour after I should have crossed the finish line, I can still hear chips gurgling through my system so je ne regrette pas returning to bed instead of lacing up my shoes. I do however regret eating two tonnes of starch and lard last night. And missing the race. Lesson learned. Enjoy the sunset without the fries. Hopefully there’s always next year to run the City Beach 8km race – and stick to pre-race pasta.IMG_2949.JPG

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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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.

Shadows & Wind

I have blogged much lately because I’ve been writing. And running. I’m almost back to my pre-ITBS mileage and hopefully next weekend will race 21.1km as part of the Ironman 70.3 Mandurah competition. Hopefully I say, as I’ve got some worrying shin pain today but come on, I can’t be that unlucky can I? I’ve learned quite a bit about running in Perth over the past few weeks while avoiding further magpie attacks but sticking to the same tried and tested route inhabited by non-violent birds. I’ll admit I’m twitchier that ever so that every shadow that crosses my path, even if it’s only a butterfly, makes me jump. I’m one step short of being afraid of my own shadow. It may be time to cut back on the coffee. Besides, the dangers of wildlife, the other thing no one mentioned when they told me ‘Oh you’ll love running in Perth’ is that it’s damn windy here. It’s so windy that I think if I wore this anti-magpie cap on my head I’d take off like a helicopter. 41blwh4qNWL Wearing a skirt running makes me feel as graceful as a galleon. If hills are speed work in disguise then so is running against the wind. Then you run with the wind and imagine how it must feel to be a fast runner; it’s performance enhancing but not in the disappointing way of Rita Jeptoo! Let’s hope her dope test failure is not the thin edge of an elite wedge. Besides running, and writing a novel set in Ireland, I’ve been expanding my horizons (in the car which protects me from angry birds). In the search for a new leotard for my daughter’s gymnastics competition, I discovered a brothel across the street (which is illegal here). Perth’s Best Brothel according to its website. The giveaway was the neon sign that said: ‘New Girls’. One wonders if such signs can be bought off the shelf or if this was a special order. I wondered other things too but I’ll keep those to myself.

Magpie Menace

pd_the_birds_movie_nt_111228_mainAfter almost two months back on the road, I’ve been enjoying the change of environment. While I miss the running community and the races in Malaysia, I’ve adjusted well to the fresh air, running tracks and free water refill stations. Sorry KL friends if I’m making you a tad jealous. I’ve also got used to not looking over my shoulder constantly, on the look-out for muggers on motorbikes. I rarely see a motorbike and have yet to hear of a mugging. Pedal power dominates the two-wheel transport scene and I’d imagine that it’s quite hard to mug someone while balancing on a bike, unless it’s a tandem with an accomplice.

That said, yesterday I was viciously attacked while running – by a testoserone-fuelled magpie. I remember noticing the bird out of the corner of my eye, before it swerved up in the air – away from me I presumed. I could see its shadow and was stunned when that shadow, rather than move away, headed straight for my head. The damn bird swooped down and pecked my hat. Talk about a true WTF moment! Thankfully, I was wearing a cap. If 2XU ever needs a spokeswoman for their Magpie-proof peaked caps, I’m their woman. I tried to dodge the menace, but it continued to dive-bomb at my head, stabbing me with its beak. The fact that I could see its shadow heading for me each time totally freaked me out. Luckily, the psycho bird which chased me across a four-lane road and back again, much to the bemusement I’d imagine of passing traffic, did not aim for my bare shoulders or my ears. At one point I stopped moving, and the bird just sat on a telephone line looking all innocent. I should point out that this was a suburban residential street and if there was a nest I certainly didn’t hang around long enough to see it.

Anyway, as soon as I moved again, swoop and attack, over and over! This was one vicious bird! I eventually outran the feathered fiend  – or at least ran out of the territory it was trying to protect. The whole incident lasted just over a minute but left me feeling somewhat rattled. I ran the 6km back to my car which incidentally I’d noticed when parking, was under a tree full of magpie nests. Thankfully this flock hadn’t eaten their crazy worms that morning.

Of course, the only thing to do after a traumatic incident such as this, at least when it’s too early to turn to drink, is to turn to Google. It turns out that not only was I not the first victim of magpie assault in Australia, but that magpie attacks are a THING, a big enough thing to merit a WikiHow page entitled HOW TO KEEP SAFE FROM SWOOPING AUSTRALIAN MAGPIES. Apparently, Ozzy magpies are notorious for swooping attacks on runners and cyclists at this time of year which is nesting season. Notorious! Strangely though, no one has mentioned it.

IMG_7893So what should I have done yesterday instead of flailing about, panicked by this unprovoked nasty attack? Well besides avoiding that stretch of road, I should have slowed to a walk, and calmly looked the bird in the eye whilst walking backwards. Yes, right, of course. I am genetically incapable of remaining calm in the face of wildlife, so that’s never going to happen. WikiHow recommends carrying an umbrella while walking or running so that it can be deployed as a head protector should a magpie swoop. For cyclists, the recommended protection is a helmet adorned with plastic cable ties when cycling. It doesn’t mention how to protect one’s dignity whilst wearing such headgear but then again, there was nothing remotely dignified about my panic dance yesterday, so it’s probably worth it. You can imagine the danger of falling off a bike or swerving into traffic if a magpie swooped.

Interestingly, WikiHow warns that I should ‘not return to the area after the encounter’ as magpies are so smart that the bird will remember me and attack me again. So yes, it was as personal as it felt! Apparently, even looking like me may be enough to trigger the magpie’s ire.

Interactie map of Perth on MagpieAlert.com.
Interactie map of Perth on MagpieAlert.com.

Back in KL, I remember people discussing the merits of a website on which people could map muggings, to help mark crime blackspots and alert people to be extra vigilant in affected areas. Well, MagpieAlert.com does exactly the same thing for magpie attacks. Yes, it’s that prevalent!

There’s also a Facebook page for the site on which a cyclist posted the clip below of a swooping magpie just like the one that attacked me.

So it looks like I’m back to running with one eye on the road (for snakes) and the other in the back of my head (for nasty birds). Oh my poor nerves!

Chevron City to Surf 2014

I knew that running in Perth would be different than in Kuala Lumpur but when I went to put on my running shoes yesterday for the Chevron City to Surf event, I realised just how different. I had to warm the shoes with a hairdryer as they had been outside all night and felt too damp and cold for my still tropical feet. It was nice not to have to get up pre-dawn as the race started at the very civilised hour of 9:05. Not so nice was the discovery that the possum that had been squatting in our roof space had found an alternative to the entrance we’d had blocked up and was doing its morning yoga over our heads as we headed out the door. The spider – biggest I’ve ever seen outside a zoo – on the gatepost of our back gate got very upset as we disturbed its morning lie in. Thankfully, once we made it out onto the street, and left the wildlife behind, everything went smoothly.

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Half Marathon runners line up to start the Chevron City to Surf race. The 12km race started on the right hand side of the barrier afterwards. All very well organised!

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The Chevron City to Surf event which had almost 50,000 registered entrants in a Marathon, Half Marathon, 12km Run and Walk, and 4km Run and Walk, was as well organised as expected. The trains into town were free for race bib wearers. There were plenty of portaloos near the start, and signs directed participants to their correct assembly points. Despite the the fact that there were over 11,000 doing the 12km run, we found several of our friends from KL both at the start and finish lines, so the sense of camaraderie we had in KL wasn’t missing yesterday. It was great! (For the record, I saw no selfie-taking or twitter feed updating on the course but the route was tightly packed with runners so there was a lot I couldn’t see).

The start line wasn’t quite as chilly as I expected thanks to the warm bodies radiating heat all around us. The 12km event was divided up into four start waves which was a smart way of avoiding chaos! The atmosphere was relaxed and pleasant, and the race started on time. This is a real community event attracting non-runners, families and people who like to wear costumes. My favourite was the guy in the hind legs of a horse, holding the head and fore legs in his hands. Running 12km in that can’t have been easy!  

The race went well, the route was lovely though a bit more undulating than my ITB rehab would strictly allow. Though it hurt from about 6km, my ITB didn’t get sharply sore until the last 1 km, probably because of the hills at the end and fatigue of course. My tendon is a bit annoyed with me today too, but I’m hoping that another day and it will have forgiven me my race folly.

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There were lots of booths with food and drinks at the finishing site in City Beach but thanks to a text telling me that my daughter had gone AWOL during the 12km walk, I couldn’t tell you much about it. I had to return to the finish line to find her. Her excuse for running off, despite having emphatically been told to stick with the adult under whose care she started, was that she wanted to impress me. Well once my anger had died down she certainly succeeded in doing that. With no training whatsoever she ran 12km in 80 mins (I did 62). I had been worried that she mightn’t have been able for the 12km walk so the fact that she ran it faster than half the adults who signed up to run, is astounding. We ruined her imagined finish line triumph mind you as we were so upset with the fact that she’d left her group, worried and concerned for her welfare, but as she feels the tug of her overworked muscles and tendons today, I bet she’s already dreaming of her next race. She’s 11. I was 41 when I crossed my first finish line. I’ve a feeling her trajectory as a runner is going to be very different. I’m trying not to be jealous.

The spider was still at the gate when we got back but the possum had presumably gone out for his Sunday walk. Maybe I’ll turn the hairdryer thing into a ritual, blowing away any critters stupid enough to enter my Brooks and get cosy. Or maybe it’s time to take the running shoes inside. Either way, I just glad to be able to wear them again and hope to participate in many Australian races in future. The fact that it sometimes might be Expat Runner & Daughter has come a something of a surprise!

 CHEVRON CITY TO SURF 2014 RESULTS

One of our 'furry' friends.
One of our ‘furry’ friends.

 

London Recap

Well Dick Whittington was wrong – the streets of London are NOT paved with gold. However, I can attest to the fact that the parks – Hyde Park, St James’s Park, and Kensington Gardens – are teeming with runners. Or maybe it’s like that time I was trying to get pregnant without success and it seemed that every single other woman on the streets of Singapore was sporting a baby bump. I couldn’t run but everyone else could, and did. Despite being benched, we had a fabulous time. London really is an easy city to navigate, whether by foot, bus or underground, and there is so much to see and do that you find yourself saying ‘Well, next time..’ a lot.

Me and Mo
Me and Mo

One Direction were strangely absent from Madame Tussauds much to D2’s disappointment. A Twitter search after our visit revealed that the wax versions of the boy band are currently in Amsterdam. I guess Madame Tussauds London are keeping this important fact quiet lest it deter Tweens from visiting. The Natural History Museum was a big hit. In fact, at the end of our second visit I had to send out a mayday call for D1 who had failed to show up at our designated meeting point and the museum was closing. ‘We have found the missing child’ a member of staff relayed back to the exit through his walkie-talkie. As D1 was escorted to the exit, she assumed a case of mistaken identity- she couldn’t possibly be a ‘missing child’ – and worried that she was being kidnapped by some strange family. A few years in KL can make a child paranoid about abduction. Once reunited with her sister and me, her only concern was if the Gift Shop was still open. No, she had not heard any of the multiple tannoy announcements about closing time. So, yes the Natural History Museum is engrossing, and it’s free to visit (donations are encouraged).

We were too late at the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre for a tour as apparently it’s a working theatre and there are no tours whilst plays are showing. Lesson learned there. ‘Mamma Mia’ was a blast; despite having seen the movie several times, the live show was still entertaining and brimming with talent. The quick visit and lunch at the Victoria & Albert Museum, a dash past Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and St Paul’s, a lot of walking in parks (trying to ignore runners) and a rather long visit to Top Shop completed our little trip – until next time.

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Tomorrow we move to Australia. As you do. No big deal at all. I’ve a feeling that the parks in Perth are also teeming with runners; fingers crossed that in another few weeks I’ll be one of them.