Saturday, June 6, 2015

One year later. Back in Australia. Still not running.

It's hard to write a blog that is primarily about running when you haven't been running.

Which is not to say I haven't run since my last post back in June 2014.

With a switch to the run/walk approach, I finished the Magnificent Mile Chicago Women's Half in August.

I then packed up all my belongings and moved back to Oz.

This is not from my flight back. But it is Australia (Brisbane, I think).

I've done the odd shuffle here and there since the move. Nothing consistent and nothing long. I've missed my Chicago running routes. No more lake path. No more running groups.

But I've just moved somewhere with a similar path/water vibe.

Morning view. 

Evening view.

So the not running is about to change.

Despite the fact that it is now winter here, with short days to make getting out and running feel so much more difficult than it really is, I am recommitting. Chris is running.

The Gold Coast Marathon is on in four weeks. I ran the half marathon there in 2012 and it was a really good race. Clearly I am not going to run a marathon (or even a 5k) this year. But 2016 - you're on!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Brooklyn Half - A non race recap

I entered the Brooklyn Half back in January, a week or so before hitting my new half marathon PR at the Melbourne Half Marathon in Florida.

Hanging out on the beach in January. Florida, you're alright!
Unfortunately, a few weeks after running that half marathon, I started experiencing some pain in my left foot. Being the smart runner I am, I ignored that pain and went on to run a new half marathon PW at the NYC Half in March.

Not a great run but the views were pretty good.
Not too long after that I stopped running altogether.

In April, I hit my first DNS for the Lakefront 10 Miler.

Then in May, I had my second DNS for the Brooklyn Half.

It is safe to say, I do not like DNSs.

However, as I absolutely LOVE NYC and I'd already paid a non-refundable deposit on my accommodation, I still took a vacation to NYC during the Brooklyn Half race week.

I rented an apartment in someone's basement for the week. It was pretty awesome, as it was WAY cheaper than renting a hotel room, I got my own kitchen to avoid eating out for every meal plus I got a lot more privacy than a hotel.

My little kitchen made the trip much more fun.
There had been visitors from all over the world. I pinned Australia.
Despite not being able to run the race, I still went to the expo, or pre-party as they called it, to pick up my race shirt and check out what was going on. Despite the grey weather, it was a nice set up.

Brooklyn Bridge view from near the pre-party.
The rest of the week, I did lots of sightseeing and neighbourhood wandering. I love just absorbing the NYC feel without having any rigid timetables or plans. This time round, I spent a lot more time in Brooklyn than Manhattan and even checked out Queens.

Welcome to Greenpoint! Thanks!
While my plans are still not decided, I'm pretty sure this was my last visit to NYC during my stint here in the USA, so I was super sad to go.

See ya New York! You've been amazing!!
Not the best quality but the night views were amazing.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sad face

Have you noticed things have been quiet in this part of the world lately?

Chris is NOT running.

Chris is Injured.

I had my first DNS for the Lakefront 10 Miler a couple of weeks ago (although I did still go and cheer on my friend). And I'm going to have another DNS in a couple of weeks. And that means:

Chris is unhappy.

To spare you all from my unhappiness (and my apparent need to talk about myself in the third person), I've been keeping quiet and I'll likely be quiet until I'm cleared to run again. At this stage, that's looking like the end of May which, thankfully, ties in with my planned marathon training start date.

In the meantime, happy running to everyone else!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April goals

Each month I plan to have four goals, one for each of my 2014 themes. Depending on the goal, I may continue that goal for more than one month but each month will have one new goal per theme.

What's in store for April?

1. Organized: Planning my weeks and prepping what I can in advance. This was a March goal that needs more practice. And my new goal for the month is creating a budget.

2. Positive: I'm in a bit of mental funk right now and desperately need a change in mindset. So April begins #100happydays. I've seen quite a few people doing this and now I'm going to join the happiness bandwagon.

3. Consistent: Stick to my half marathon training plan. We don't want a repeat of the NYC Half when I hit Brooklyn in May.

4. Social: Celebrate my birthday!

Monday, March 31, 2014

March goals - retrospective

My March goals didn't get published but I was still working on them. Here's how I did.

1. Organized: Start planning my meals (actually writing them out) AND doing my grocery shopping on the weekend AND pre-preparing what I can for the week.

Hmm, I was pretty good at the planning part and the grocery shopping part but I didn't do so well on pre-preparing. This meant that my good intentions with planning didn't always lead to good execution. I'm putting this one on my April list to keep working on it.

2. Positive: Make a change that scares me.

I love routine and I generally play things pretty safe. But following the old saying "A change is as good as a holiday" and knowing that holidays make me happy, I challenged myself to make a change in March. That change was cutting my hair short. And I love it! While it's not as short as I planned and many wouldn't understand why that would scare me, it did and I'm super happy for challenging myself to do it.

3. Consistent: March goals will be written AND I will hit at least four quality work outs each week.

I'm giving myself a yes on the goal writing (even though they weren't published) and major miss on the work outs. I did get struck down with a horrible cold again but that wasn't the only thing to get me off track. I'm putting this goal on the back-burner and will revisit again later in the year.

4. Social: Go for coffee/drinks/dinner/other social activity with at least two people I haven't socialized with before.

Yay! Another tick on this one. I went to a comedy show and after work drinks with new people this month.

How are you going with your 2014 goals?

Shamrock Shuffle 2014

Seriously considered not turning up for this race. Felt under-trained and gun-shy after NYC Half.
Happy that the weather has cleared up for race day.
Anyone else disappointed with the race shirt? Felt like it was more about the sponsor than the race.
Morning pre-race routine was maintained. Out of the house with time to spare.
Racers packed the train downtown.
Once I got to the CARA area at the Congress Hotel I started feeling more psyched to be there.
Can't decide what to wear. Long tights or shorts? How warm is it going to get before I finish?
Keep on long sleeve shirt but go with the shorts.

Super crowded for the start.
Hustling to get ahead of the people in front of me.
Under Wacker, left on Grand, before I know it we're down State and at two miles in.
Feeling good. Pace is solid and I'm continuing to pass people.
Flat 30:00 for the 5k by my watch. Now it's really time to pick up the pace.
Lowering my pace with every kilometer. Can't remember my time for last year so push extra hard, feeling like a PR is possible.
Excellent result - 8km PR by over a minute and my racing confidence is restored!

I know lots of people ran this race. I hope you all had a great time too!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A tale of two races

This is the tale of two races. Two half marathons, in fact, run six weeks apart.

The first half marathon was part of the Melbourne Music Marathon Festival and was held on February 2 in Melbourne, Florida. The second half marathon was the NYC Half (in NYC!) on March 16.

They couldn't have been more different!

Melbourne Half Marathon
This race was recommended to me by a co-worker: a relatively flat race in Florida during winter, run along the water with some fabulous views. Add to that, the fact that the race was in Melbourne, and I'm from Melbourne, Australia, I just had to do it.

I headed down to Florida on the Friday, so got to spend the weekend enjoying warm temperatures. January was so miserable in Chicago that for the two weeks before the race I was ridiculously excited about any temperature that was above freezing. I was practically delirious about temperatures that would support wearing shorts!

The race expo, which I attended on Saturday, was small and easy to get through. I picked up my bib, shirt and cap then headed to the beach to enjoy the sun and warmth. My Chicago winter skin wasn't up to the adventure, so I only stayed out for a short while. It was glorious while it lasted though.

Beaching out

The rest of the day was spent doing a little exploring around the historic downtown area. I kept things low key, knowing I needed to give my legs a break before the race on Sunday.

On Sunday morning I awoke to warm temps (much warmer than I'm comfortable running in) and heavy fog. I ran the mile or so from my hotel to the start line as a warm up. The marathoners (as there was a marathon on at the same time) started 30 minutes before the half. There was a pretty good turn out for the half marathon and once the race got underway, the course was quite congested for the first couple of miles. My training leading up to the race had been relatively good, however, a chest cold a couple of weeks out together with an extraordinarily slow and difficult long run the week prior had me dubious about producing a solid race. I did my best to settle into a comfortable pace and focused finding the best path through the crowded early miles.

After about four or five miles of highway running, we hit the first of the two long bridges (aka hills) on the course. I had been promised beautiful water views when tackling this part of the course but the fog remained and I couldn't even see the crest of the bridge (which was somewhat of a blessing for my flatland legs). On the other side of the bridge we moved into a more residential area. The fog was denser here and at times I couldn't see more than a few houses ahead of me. I was in a good rhythm and feeling strong until around mile nine. A handful of gummy bears perked me up and I hit the second bridge feeling optimistic. Again, the fog dismissed any thoughts of taking in the view. I passed a lot of runners at this point of the course and a glance at my watch with under two miles to go had me thinking a PR was a possibility.

I crossed the finish line in 2:15:32. A PR by around 45 seconds!

There was a post-race party with beer and pizza. I visited briefly and then ran (slowly!) back to my hotel.

This was a great race and I would definitely recommend it. Although the fog prevented me from enjoying the views, it helped keep the warm temps manageable and contributed to my PR (no slowing down for sightseeing).

NYC Half
I love New York City and will use any excuse to visit. The NYC Half runs via a lottery system and I put my name in after seeing an email about it in late 2013. The draw was in December and I was disappointed when I wasn't selected. Then, a few weeks later they extended the field size and had a second drawing in January. This time I was lucky!

After Melbourne, my training was extremely patchy. I was running. But not very often and not very far.

I flew into New York (technically, I flew into New Jersey) on Saturday and headed straight from the airport to the expo. It was very crowded so I dashed in to pick up my bib and race shirt but didn't stay to browse the booths. There were just too many people! From the expo, I walked to my hotel, taking in the city as I went. I got a room upgrade when I checked in, giving me the largest NYC hotel room I've ever stayed in. It was a shame I was only staying one night and wouldn't really get to make the most of it. After I having a rest, I headed out to explore the city a little more. After wandering around for a few hours (not really the best plan the night before a half marathon!) I grabbed sushi for dinner and hit the sack early in the city than never sleeps.

Carb loading, sushi style!

On race morning it was cold and cloudy. I was only a few blocks from Central Park, where the race started, but left around 90 minutes before race time because of the large amount of security in place for the race. The cut off times to check bags and enter the corrals were pretty early compared to the actual race start time. I checked my bag (which ended up having only a back up t-shirt in it because it was too cold to take off any other layers) and headed to my start corral. We passed through two sets of metal detectors/police security checks before reaching the corral. And then I stood there for 30 minutes before the race started. Getting colder by the minute.

Security line

Essentially, the first two or three miles of this race were not great for me. It took over two miles for me to regain feeling in my hands and feet after waiting in the cold at the start. And it hurt once it started coming back too. On top of that, my tights just kept falling down. Following the 'nothing new on race day' rule, I had run in these tights countless times before without this being an issue. In fact, I had run in these tights days before the race without there being an issue. After pulling off to the side of the road a couple of times to readjust, I bit the bullet and joined a ridiculously long toilet line to try and sort things out once and for all. I knew this wasn't going to be a great race for me (see patchy training comment above) but lining up for 10 minutes was beyond frustrating! I executed a very thorough readjustment process once I got into a port-a-potty then hit course again. Thankfully, whatever it was that was causing the falling down was resolved and it was smooth sailing from that point forward.

The first six miles of the race were pretty much all in Central Park. The winding streets and hills did not make this my favorite part of the course. We exited the park onto Seventh Avenue where I started to enjoy myself. We continued down Seventh Avenue to and through Times Square and then turned toward west along 42nd Street. I paused to take some photos during this early street running and was looking around at the city as I went.

Heading down Seventh Avenue

Bright lights in Times Square

Once we hit 12th Avenue/West Side Highway, we also hit a freezing wind and the warmth I had just begun to enjoy was quickly taken away from me. There was some good entertainment on this part of the course, helping greatly with the fact that my lack of training was making itself feel very apparent at this point.

Once we made our way down to Battery Park, the course went underground and we had a stretch going through the tunnel. And then we emerged and the finish line was not far away.

I struggled my way to the finish line with my worst half marathon finish time to date. I am torn with this result. Excluding how I felt physically, I loved running in New York City. My finish time, if I exclude the time I lost dealing with my wardrobe issues, is less disappointing and given how under-trained I was, anything better would have been completely undeserved. But coming off a PR race, a PW race is blow to the ego.

Having done this race once, I can't say I'd want to do it again. The entry price was high and it's a little early in the year for good weather. But for anyone who wants to run through Manhattan, it's a well organized race and you get to see some great parts of the city.

So there you go. Two half marathons, with very different experiences and very different results. My next half marathon is in May, where I'm hoping for a combination of all the good points from each of the races here: Good weather, great sights and a shiny new PR!