Monday, July 22, 2013

The Age Run Melbourne 10k - race recap

As promised, here's my recap of The Age Run Melbourne 10km event held on Sunday. 

The weather was absolutely horrendous on Saturday. I believe it may have been one of the coldest July days on record in Melbourne. It was certainly one of the wettest...not to mention the icy winds! I was absolutely terrified we'd have a similar day for the run, but by the evening, the weatherman was assuring me that rain would be, at worst, light. 

I woke up with a sore throat and achy glands, but I wasn't going to let that deter me. Although it was dark and chilly, I could tell the day was going to be an okay one for running. Win!

I forced my beloved to get up early with me. As my live-in barista, his mad espresso skillz have rendered me dependent on a nice brew to start the day, and this day was no different. Along with my flat white, I had two pieces of chia bread toast - one with peanut butter and the other with Vegemite (Aussie gold, for any unacquainted readers) - a glass of water and my usual vitamins.  

Then it was off to meet one of my friends who was also competing and, quite fortunately, lives only 15 minutes (by foot) from the starting line. Car park win! We rugged up and wandered down St Kilda Rd to Federation Square in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. There, we collected our race packets and spent the next 45 minutes huddled for warmth and queuing for the toilet. After dropping off our bags and additional clothing, we headed towards the start line and this happened:


There were thousands of participants in the 10k event alone (nearly 8,000, I believe) - plus there were also 5km and half marathon events on the day. As such, there was definitely a little waiting as wave after wave were started and we shuffled our way forward. 

At one point, the announcer made the comment that in the wave ahead of me, the leader of the Australian opposition was about to start the 10km event. Now, I am not, have not and will never be a supporter of this man. However, irrespective of political leanings (and, let's face it, there's no longer a way to lean in this country - grrr!), I thought about how blessed we are to live in a nation where our political leaders can feel comfortable enough to complete a fun run with the rest of us. I honestly cannot see that happening in many other developed countries.

And then....we were off! 

As I'm training to achieve a few personal goals in a 5km event next month, I wanted to take this event pretty casually and decided, with the help of coach extraordinaire, Julia, that I would walk a minute of every kilometer of the race. Well, that was all good in theory, until I couldn't work out how to get my Garmin to display time elapsed and had to guesstimate. As a result, I applied my own run/walk approach. I ran the first two kilometres (I was going to walk at the end of the first, but remembered that virtually the entire second kilometre was downhill and it wouldn't be very strenuous to jog) and, at the first hill, I thought "uh huh, this is my new plan - walk the worst hilly bits"...and that's exactly what I did. About 7 or 8 times through the event, I conserved my energy by walking up the steepest hills.

Now, I know this was a timed event, but I'm going to report on what my Garmin told me....because there was a MASSIVE bottleneck under a bridge next to the Yarra River in Richmond (along the northern bike path for anyone who rides into Melbourne from the east), where not only were we all forced to walk, but there was even a period where I came to a complete standstill thanks to a whole bunch of walkers blocking the narrow pathway. I didn't personally have a problem with the stop (though couldn't help myself turning to the bloke next to me and informing him facetiously, "that's it, PB is shattered"...teehee!). I estimate that this delayed me by about an extra minute, which is reflected in my Garmin times, but not in the overall race times.

Anyway, let's back track a little. 

Kilometre 1: 6:19
The adrenalin kicked in as soon as I heard the starting gun and I jogged off feeling great. There was one hill in this first part of the course, but aside from that, it was largely flat. I listened to my breathing and simply felt great to be participating in this event with the extended Melbourne community. 

Kilometre 2: 6:08
Downhill!! This portion of the course was almost entirely flat and downhill. I definitely could have pushed harder, but Coach Julia's words were echoing in my ear - 10km is a long way - you need to conserve energy at the start of your run. I was feeling simply sensational at this point!

Kilometre 3: 7:27
My first walk was during this segment - up a pretty steep hill. I then recommenced jogging, turned a corner and was faced with yet another hill (right next to the Royal Botanic Gardens). Instead of forcing myself to jog up it, I slowed to a fast walk again. I was grateful, as it meant I could fly down the notorious Anderson St hill and make up a bit of lost time.

Kilometre 4: 6:41
Kilometre 5: 6:47
The next two kms were an out and back section along the south bank of the Yarra River (i.e. down Alexandra Ave for the Melburnians). This was one of my favourite sections of the event last year and it remained so this year. It's long and flat, with a couple of music stages and a drink station. As I approached the turn around point (probably around 4.5km through), the musical duo were playing an acoustic version of Easy (i.e. like Sunday morning). I kid you not, I got teary. Why? I cannot tell you - I just felt so blessed at that very moment to be out running in such a beautiful city. I do wonder if running somehow heightens your emotions - any thoughts on that?

I finished 5kms in 33:22 and felt fresh, happy and invigorated. I certainly hadn't pushed to my limits and I'm thus pretty stoked with the outcome of the first half of the run. As a consequence, I'm going to modify my 5km time goals for next month accordingly. 

Kilometre 6: 6:45
It was during this segment that the aforementioned bottleneck/standstill incident occurred. Towards the last part of this section of the course, I started to find that moving from a walk to a jog was increasingly difficult. Once I started jogging, I was fine and moving from a jog to a walk was also okay. However, getting back into that bouncy gait after walking was tough. I think my butt, calves and feet were beginning to feel the distance. No matter, I just kept up the jogging lightly and soldiered on.

Kilometre 7: 7:17
All was going along relatively smoothly. And then this happened.

That's right folks, your favourite "unco" did it again. My foot landed on an uneven piece of curb, my ankle rolled and, no doubt, hyper-extended, and then over I went. I grazed my "good" knee pretty impressively, but I was more annoyed about putting holes in yet another pair of expensive leggings (any Lululemon executives reading this, please note that you should definitely send me a new pair of running leggings...with a zip waist pocket, if possible. Pretty please!). 

The fall was a bit humiliating. Everyone around me was so lovely and concerned, asking if I was okay and needed help. I pulled myself up, dusted myself off, thanked everyone for their concern and shot them the biggest grin and thumbs up that I could muster to let them know I'd be okay. The knee wasn't too painful at the time - I was far more concerned about my ankle, which was a wee bit tender. 

So, what's a girl to do when she falls over spectacularly? Jump right back up and start walking/jogging again. I knew from prior basketball experience that I hadn't sprained anything, but that once I cooled down I'd likely be a wee bit sore - i.e. best to keep moving. 

Kilometre 8: 7:07
I think it's around the eighth kilometre mark of Run Melbourne that the course takes you over a long foot bridge in the heart of the Richmond sporting precinct. This may well have been the toughest part of the course for me. I knew that slowing down to walk would mean it would be difficult to get back into a jogging rhythm and the overpass, while not especially steep, was looooong (and virtually all uphill!). I waddled my way over it (by this stage, I wasn't lifting my knees much and I'm sure I could have walked faster!) and was glad to come down and out the other side.

Kilometre 9 and 10
I chugged along and was beyond relieved to see the marker for the final kilometre of the run. I remember from last year that there's one mammoth hill (Wellington Pde South) before a 500 metre downhill/flat dash to the finishing line. I made the decision to walk up the hill (evidently the correct one, as I was even passing some stubborn joggers who refused to walk!). Once at the top, I knew all the tough bits were over and I could enjoy the last 500 metres. I bolted down that last hill and sprinted to the finish line. It never ceases to amaze me that even though EVERYTHING hurts, I somehow have enough energy to sprint to a finish line - just goes to prove that you can always push a little harder than you think you can. 

My final time? Garmin says: 68 minutes, 44 seconds
In the back of my head, I was hoping for a sub-70 minute result, given that I knew I'd be walking throughout (mind you, I had told myself that it would be very unlikely). My official race time is also sub-70 - yesssss! 

Upon reflection, I am super dooper proud of myself, especially given how sore I am today in all sorts of places I didn't know could hurt! 

After collecting our swag we wandered back to the apartment, I cleaned up my knee and it was time to relax and recover - a big bubbly spa bath, followed by pizza and beer. Bliss! 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A frolicking update

You may have noticed a little badge on the side of my blog that links to some of the "frolicking" I've been partaking in of late - namely, an online running course for women of all abilities - Up & Running.

Until my knee reconstruction nearly two years ago, "just running" was always in the too-hard-no-fun basket. Basketball was fine, as was bike riding, but running? No way! I even recall informing a former colleague that my body was "not designed" for distance running, like his - I'm too tall (nearly 6 foot), all sorts of bendy flexible, a tad knock-kneed and my legs are too long. Crazy, right?! He, and my other friends who ran, all had a lower centres of gravity and were just a bit more compact/sturdy-looking than yours truly. In any case, it's a ridiculous assertion - I'm clearly aware that the top marathon runners in the world are long and lean (that lean part is still a work in progress for me, mind you!).

It wasn't until I was told by my surgeon that I had to temporarily steer clear of sports with lots of sideways movements (e.g. basketball) that I even considered running as an exercise possibility. These instructions coincided with increased reading of some great blogs, whose authors happen to be avid and very talented runners - like Meghann and Monica.

As a result, in the last year, I've participated in a handful of fun runs (around five) - all of which (perhaps with the exception of one) I've really enjoyed. However, my training was, at best, sporadic and, at worst, non-existent. I simply relied upon the fact that in a previous life I was vaguely sporty and that I was doing a couple of group fitness classes each week and could therefore push myself to move a little faster than a walk.

To be honest, I have been pretty disappointed with my results (there's probably a reason they didn't appear on this least not with any sort of transparency!), but that's unsurprising. What did I expect? I wasn't putting in the hard work and, while I could achieve the distance, my times were slow (I think my best 5k attempt was a wee bit over 35 minutes - i.e. a slow jog the entire way). I realise that this may represent a good time for some, but being a (then) late-20s, historically sporty person meant I had and continue to have higher expectations.

Fast forward to today - five-and-a-bit weeks into my Up & Running 5km course. I've been completing three  running workouts per week (typically coupled with two strength-focused group training sessions with my friends at work), with each pushing me slightly further than the week before. I am totally in love with the amount of support I have received through the program, both from its administrators and participants. These ladies actually make you want to get out there and have a crack, in spite of the many obstacles life throws in our way.

Wanna know what else is really cool? I'm actually looking forward to my runs. For the first time in my adult working life, I'm excited for 4:00pm to roll around so I can get out of my work clothes and head out into the fresh air and spend some undisturbed time with me, myself and I. Mind you, I imagine my colleagues are less than impressed when I wander back in 35 minutes later smelling like a sewer and continuing to work!

With another few weeks remaining of the program, I have booked myself into a 5km fun run and have a clear time goal in mind that I'm working towards. The thought of this makes me simultaneously excited and nervous (What if I don't achieve my goals, in spite of all my hard work? What if I do?).

This weekend, I have another challenge - one I signed up for well before Up and Running was on the horizon and thus before establishing my 5km goals. Months ago, a girlfriend asked me to run/walk with her in the Run Melbourne 10km event. I was happy to oblige, feeling somewhat confident that my fitness abilities would be slightly higher than hers and that I could offer her the support and encouragement needed to get through the event. Since this time, she has injured herself and will not be participating and so, I'm going it alone.

I have a set run-walk plan in place and I'm just going to enjoy the atmosphere of the event - i.e. not push myself. I intend to conserve energy at the start of the race and try to complement rather than derail my 5k training. this space. I shall report back in the not too distant future and hopefully won't be caught doing something as silly as this...though you never know!

Friday, July 12, 2013

A birthday treat

Because my beloved is super, awesome, cool and knows I like all things related to food, day spas and surprises, he whisked me away to Daylesford to celebrate my 30th birthday weekend. I was pampered all weekend long (it was like 48 hours straight of eating, drinking, massage and sleep - I kid you not!) and thought I'd share some of the food highlights.

We arrived just in time for dinner at Kazuki's on Friday evening. The restaurant aims to team the owner's Japanese heritage with locally sourced produce. The meal was lovely. We started with the light and refreshing Yasai no moriawase (literal translation: a shitload of yummy stuff on a plate) and moved onto spatchcock and pork belly mains. There were liberal pourings of sake, which took me straight back to Japan and got me all excited about our forthcoming trip.

Yasai no moriawase (please excuse the poor lighting!)

The food was great, but just not quite special enough to make us stay for dessert. I can't quite put my finger on it - flavours were subtle and well thought out and the ambiance and service were excellent. Maybe we were just in the mood for more hearty, winter cuisine on such a cold night...I just don't know. For me, Kazuki's doesn't quite match other local, similarly priced establishments like Mercato or Darmagi, but is still definitely worth a visit.

Kazuki's on Urbanspoon

Our next eating highlight was courtesy of Wombat Hill House, which I've blogged about previously. My beloved and I don't like to order the same dish, but neither of us were able to fathom foregoing the breakfast pizza, so we agreed to be "different" by ordering one with bacon and one without (genius, right?!).

As usual, outstanding food and a great, relaxed feel!

Wombat Hill House on Urbanspoon

Our afternoon snack was courtesy of the Chocolate Mill - vanilla ice-cream topped with beautifully tempered, dark spiced chocolate. Umm.... yum!!

Chocolate Mill on Urbanspoon

Because we weren't full enough, dinner was booked at Darmagi. I must have driven past Darmagi fifty times since its establishment (it's been there for well over two years!), but had never noticed the minimalist eatery nestled in the heart of Hepburn Springs. As soon as we walked into the place, we were treated like old friends. I have never dined anywhere where I felt as genuinely welcomed as at Darmagi. Not only were the waiters delightful, but the kitchen staff were open to a chat too (thanks to a very cool open kitchen set up).

At a dollar a pop, my beloved couldn't go past half a dozen oysters to start. I went for some absolutely beautiful prosciutto. Both were incredible (even if the hairy arm in the above turns you off, take my word on that!).

Mains were stunning - beautifully refined comfort food - a lamb ragout pasta for me and a slow cooked beef cheek for my beloved (the latter unfortunately was not captured on film).

Dessert came in the form of tiramisu. My beloved has a pretty high tiramisu benchmark. He reckons he's never had any tiramisu (even in Italy!) that comes close to that made by my mum (my non-Italian mum, I should add). This dish was as close to tira-perfection as either of us have had and was washed down by more grappas than I'd like to admit.

Darmagi was well and truly the dining highlight of our time away. The food was sensational, the restaurant flawless and the staff simply outstanding. What more could a girl ask for to kick off her third decade?

Darmagi on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

...and so I'm 30

It seems like yesterday that I was struggling to think of 30 things to do before turning 30. Heck, it seems like yesterday that I was a 10 year old. Where did 20 years just go?!

Anyway, I thought I'd update you all on my 30 before 30 achievements and provide an indication of those things that may have to wait and/or never happen (colour-coded for your convenience, using a traffic light system because, let's face it, I'm a nerd!). Here goes:

5. Go vegetarian for a week (including one day of veganism) - nope, this one isn't happening. I'm all about intuitive eating and listening to my body at the moment and I'm in a really good head space when it comes to food. I certainly am not messing with that! If my tummy says meat, then meat it is. 
6. Read at least one fiction book - womp, womp. Epic fail! This didn't happen, as anticipated, though I'm planning to take a light, girly read overseas with me next month. Any recommendations for this non-fiction lover? 
11. Lose 5kg
17. Watch 5 movies on the IMDb Top 250 list that I've never seen - I'm currently at 4 of 5. The fifth is planned. There will be an update! 
18. Bike ride into Melbourne and back home - all the running I've been doing of late, coupled with the inconsistent winter weather has meant that I haven't found the time to go on many any bike rides. I think this one will definitely be ticked off the list in the next few months though.
22. Redecorate/reconfigure our "formal" lounge room to make it more usable - nope. Just didn't get around to it. Most of the boxes in here have been unpacked and the room is neat and usable; however, we haven't made it "ours" in the same way we've transformed other rooms in our house. I think this may be an ongoing project over the next few months. 
23. Learn how to decorate a cake - goal on hold until my cake-maker extraordinaire buddy has the time to fit me in. Again, there will be photographic evidence and much scoffing!
26. Go technology-free for 24 hours - sadly this is currently in the too hard basket. The last time I went tech-free was during a holiday to Vanuatu, where there was no TV, no phone reception and definitely no internet. It was an incredibly liberating experience, but is simply not feasible right now with work and other commitments. 
30. Knit a scarf for winter - the finishing touches are happening as I type (figuratively, clearly...I don't have four hands!) and there shall be photographic evidence. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

30 before 30: #11 - lose 5kg

When I came up with my 30 before 30 list, I thought achieving my 11th goal of losing 5kgs would be the hardest of the lot. Since my knee reconstruction, I had let my eating habits get the better of me and was no longer listening to my body about what it needed in terms of energy.

I am pleased to say that I'm down over 5kgs (WOOHOO!) and would ideally like to drop another 5kg to get smack bang into the middle of my healthy range (according to BMI).

I attribute my success to two key factors:

1. Sessions with my wonderful hypnotherapist... 

...who has helped "reprogram" (for want of a better term) my habits and behaviours with respect to eating. Seriously people, get yourself a hypno. Pronto!

I'm now eating (and, for that matter, living) much more mindfully and in the moment. I find myself listening to my body and more frequently asking if I'm *really* hungry, or just reaching for the biscuit jar out of habit. More often than not, it's the latter. There are no rules or calorie restrictions - it's all about eating when I'm hungry, enjoying my food and not over-eating. You can't get any more simple than that, right?! The changes I've made are both empowering and liberating, and I'm glad to be back in a healthy and sustainable head-space when it comes to my eating habits.

2. More moving!

I am close to half way through completing the Up & Running 5k program. This is the brain child of the brilliant Shauna Reid and coach extraordinaire, Julia Jones and provides a virtual training program  for women with the goal of completing a 5km run at its conclusion. I cannot endorse the program highly enough - the support and bonding of the women involved keeps participants accountable and, on a personal level, keeps me striving for success.

Although I have run a number of 5km runs (i.e. doing the course wasn't about achieving a distance goal), my times have been extremely slow. This is unsurprising given that in the past, I've done no more than about two training runs before every fun run. However, this time I've set myself a time target that I'm working towards and have a fun run locked in in mid-August.

In between my three running sessions per week, I'm participating in work-run group fitness classes twice a week and the odd game of basketball here and there. I realise that this is a lot of activity and am very carefully monitoring my body. I expected that I'd be feeling sore and run down as a consequence of all this moving (especially through this cold winter), but instead I'm feeling energised and very healthy. Win!

As an aside, one of the coolest parts of my three weeks of regular running has been seeing the definition that is developing in my thunder thighs. They are still thunderous, but there are muscles under the thunder. Muscles, I tell you!

Anyway, enough rambling. To sum it up, I'm feeling fit, healthy and positive - a good place to be when one is about to enter their thirties, me thinks!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

30 before 30: #8 - try 5 new (to me) beers

It's probably no surprise that I smashed this goal out of the ball park (is that the correct baseball parlance?). It's a truth universally acknowledged that I do like beer (Jane Austen meant to write that. True story.). I'll even go as far as to say that I prefer beer to wine. It's probably not my most feminine attribute, nor my most cultured, but heck, I'm going to embrace my inner bogan! Mind you, I particularly like matching beer with perhaps said embrace should cover my inner hipster as well.

In any case, here be my five six beers:

1. Cantina Pura Cerveza (El Salvador) 
Crisp, refreshing and good value for money. Paired well with some home made Mexican grub.

2. Hitachino Nest White Ale (Japan)
Very drinkable and props for the cute bottle. Enjoyed at Estelle Bar and Kitchen.

3. Lord Nelson Brewery Pale Ale (Australia)
Very easy (too easy... ;) ) to drink - paired with some spicy Thai at Sailors Thai in Sydney.

4. Steam Rail "The Gold Digger" Golden Ale (Australia) 
Probably the least impressive of all the beers tried. At least it was shared with great friends and weather! 

5.  Mirboo Madness American Red Ale (Australia)
Limited edition. Smooth on the way down, but the aftertaste wasn't great. Value for money was also questionable. Just as well my home-made, crumbed barramundi with fresh coleslaw made up for it! 
Perhaps not the best beer, but definitely the best nails of the lot!

6. So remember how I said I smashed this goal? Yep, I tried six, not five, but six new beers. and I've left the best until last. It was so good, in fact, that I forgot to take a photo of it while drinking it...on two occasions(!!), but that's surely a good sign. 

Behold, my new favourite beer: the Alhambra Negra (Spain). Enjoyed at MoVida and at The Black Toro