Category Archives: Running

I AM a runner

If you think the title of the post will bring you to a write up of my incredible training schedule or a mental run I’ve just completed, you would be wrong. I haven’t run since March.

The last run I had was with my brother-in-law Nacho, around the neighbourhood where my in-laws have a house in Tigre, near Buenos Aires. It was the morning and not too hot and sweaty out yet and we did a nice 5km route chatting all the while.

And then a few days later, I found out I was pregnant again. Fortunately, this time, everything is going well and we are currently 11 weeks out from the due date. But, as mentioned, I haven’t run since. I felt that my running was  a bit haphazard prior to getting pregnant, and so I wasn’t comfortable continuing with it. So I’ve been back to power-walking and swimming. I also started a prenatal yoga class this week which was fabulous for both body, mind and spirit. I will definitely keep that up until our daughter is knocking on the door to come out!

And yet I am a still a runner. Why? Because every time I see a runner go past my window, or I drive past a couple of girls out on a run, or my husband comes back from one, I get a small pang of I wish that was me. It’s not resentment of them, I just miss it. I miss the feeling of being in total control of my body in that way and the happiness rush when I finish. I miss the sweat and stretching on my doorstep watching the boats, I miss my running t-shirts and vests that no longer fit over my bump.

But when all is said and done, I am still a runner. And later, after this hiatus, I will return. Goodbye is not forever. Knowing you’ll be back is always a wonderful feeling.

I'll be back. And minus the bump!

I’ll be back. And minus the bump!

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Better late than never

Oh how the title of this post applies to so many things. I haven’t written in months. Better late than never. My training could have started before it did. Better late than never. I finished my recent half marathon in my slowest time ever for that distance. But: Better late than never!

Last Saturday night was my first official race in two years. TWO YEARS! Long time coming. Injuries and having a baby will do that I guess. There’s so many running stories between last November, when I started running again after Nahuel’s birth, and now that I want to share, but for now they will have to wait. This post is simply going to be about Saturday’s race.

The ING marathon and half marathon in Luxembourg is a great big running event. The sort with helicopters, hot air balloons, DJs, an assortment of free stuff for the crowd to shake, rattle and wave, tonnes of people lining the streets in support and a route which takes in the delights of the city. Martin ran the full marathon last year and the route is famous for its inclines in the second half of both courses. He was a supporter this year, along with Nahuel.

I was nervous. The previous weekend I had run 10.3 miles along the ups and downs of the vineyards around the Moselle valley, where we live. It had been hot and tiring, but I had felt great. I had reserves and could have kept going. On that starting line a week later, my nerves led to doubts. Would I make it? I have never experienced that before. “I’m nervous,” I said to my friend who was also running. “Me too,” she replied. It was her first half marathon. It seemed to me she had the right to be nervous and I didn’t. Perhaps I just needed to start and I’d feel fine.

And then start we did. We kicked off at lightening speed. There were lots of people so you had the usual first couple of kilometres skipping past people and dodging around others. But we did it quickly, at just under 5 minute per km. This was not my half marathon running pace. But it felt good. So I carried on that way.

I got to the 12 km marker in an hour. Way too fast, knowing the up-hills that were coming on the way back. The crowd were brilliant, shouting and cheering your name at every part of the course. In the city centre, there was no way you could stop. The route was narrow and lined both sides with cheering and clapping. I felt like I shuffled the cobbled streets of Luxembourg city at that point on the wave of the semi-drunken audience with bubbly in their hands.

But after that euphoria, the roads widened again. There was space and a breeze and the setting sun behind me on the way back to Kirchberg. I had nothing in the tank. I had to walk. So I walked and ran the last part, hoping I had done enough to come in under 2 hours. I tried to buddy up with a couple of people who also seemed to be suffering, egging them on to get the same support back. But I ended up leaving them and their blisters and woes behind.

At kilometre 18.5, a friend shouted out from the void. “LAURA! Come on Bird!” There was a world out there beyond the pain and exhaustion! I ran up to her and got a kiss, some energy to get me through the last couple of kilometres. It worked.

Martin and Nahuel were also there, on the final bend before the finishing line. And so I made it. Not elegantly, or fearlessly or strongly, but I finished. My watch said 2 hours and 9 seconds. Oh well. Better late than never.

Congrats to all the runners of Saturday’s half and full marathon! And to my friend Kris, who finished her first half in 1 hour 54 minutes. Great job!

Before the start with Kris and Nahuel.

Before the start with Kris and Nahuel.

Weekend of Races

Although Laura and I are miles apart and even have an ocean in the between us, we managed to sign up for races for the same weekend without even knowing it.  Several months ago we were having a conversation about what’s to come and as it turned out she will be running a half marathon tomorrow night and I will wake up Sunday morning for a 30K trail run.

This will be her first race since adding Nahuel to the family and I have my second trail run on the docket.  Thankfully this one is a smidge shorter than the last one especially considering this was the worst training session I’ve had yet.

As always, I sat down to plan out when I would run each distance.  My goal was to hit 18 miles 2 weeks ago and then taper.  Life happened or I should say I put other things first and all of a sudden it was 2 weeks out and I still hadn’t done 16.  I also managed to go the entire week without putting my running shoes on between the 14 and 16.  Talk about feeling my legs those next Luxcouple days!  I also made the decision (both good and bad) to run in the shoes I will run in this weekend.  As it turns out I have a slightly different form with those shoes and it meant my calves felt like it was my first run in ages.

Regardless and whether we’re ready or not, this weekend we’ll both be pitter-pattering our way across several miles.  And it’s been nice to be able to talk about similar runs again even though we’re so far apart.

 

Running around Morocco

Yet again, it’s been a while since I’ve made an appearance.  The good news is I haven’t given up running during that time. Last month, I joined 13 other runners on an adventure through Morocco.  I’m generally against group tours, but I figured what can go wrong combining two of my favorite things, running and traveling.  So I dove in and met the group in Marrakesh for our 10 day running expedition.

Water stopThe trip is designed so anyone, no matter their running ability, can see the colorful country off the beaten path.  Each day we moved from village to village, did some sight-seeing along the way and then would hit our departure point.  They would tell us how many miles until the hotel and we could choose to run the distance that we desired.  The 4x4s that carted us to that point would then loop around us providing water and snack stops and a pick-up if you just couldn’t go any further.

We ran through villages, along paths that were speckled with nomad camps, through a gorge and eventually in the sand of the Sahara Desert.  We saw snow-capped mountains, hills filled with layers of different colors, gave high-fives and ran with children in the villages and passed camels grazing on the unexpected arugula that had sprouted in the desert.

My favorite run started at the top of a hill and we worked our way down the dirt road to the asphalt that would lead us through a village.  It had just rained so we started a little lower than planned so we wouldn’t slip on the mud.  MoroccoAs I worked my way down, I was looked from left to right and felt like I was in a movie.  I couldn’t believe the colors.  I kept looking back and forth and even though I had to dodge the small rocks in my FiveFingers, I couldn’t have enjoyed the run more.  A couple of runners waited for me at the bottom of the hill where the dirt met asphalt and we made our way into the village.  Children were waiting for us and joined us as we made our way through their familiar streets. They yelled “yalla” to encourage us to go faster as we weaved through the red clay buildings.  After 10 miles and the mountains getting closer and closer to form the Todra Gorge, we were met with a river crossing that was covered in rushing brown water.  It was time to get in a 4×4 to cross the water, but I couldn’t have asked for better scenery and company during that run.

Looking back, I can’t imagine a more exciting way to discover a new country.  I highly recommend seeing a country with the main focus on running and allowing that to take you at least part of the way from point-to-point.

Marathon birth

Those stories about women going to the toilet and giving birth now have me in stitches (actually, I am in stitches, real ones) because my perspective on this whole labour thing comes from a place far removed from that fart-out-a-baby experience. Still, lucky them, I say!

Nahuel joined us on 25 September after 21 hours of announcing he was on his way. Yep, obviously a little man who takes his time on a journey and enjoys the process. It’s not always about the destination, how many times do we say that to ourselves?! Anyway, I’ve decided to share the experience on this blog because it was a test of endurance and mental and physical strength. And because it was a marathon.

24/09/14, 17:30h – The Warm Up: I go with my mum to the hospital. Been losing some liquids and you can’t start a marathon that way. Martin meets us there. Doctor wants to keep me in over night and check my status in the morning again before the starting line.

24/09/14, 23h – The Starting Line: The marathon as been brought forward, luckily I am already there with my number on, just in case. First contractions start. Getting pumped and also worrying if I’ve done enough training.

25/09/14, 06:50h – Mile 5: The first part of any run is always the worst for me until I find my groove. On no sleep due to contractions I call the nurses and they send me to the delivery ward. This is much better, will get into my rhythm.

25/09/14, 08h – Mile 7: The midwife breaks my waters and that groove I was looking for suddenly hits. Managing the contractions with breathing, feeling a good pace. Doctor comes and tells me Plum will arrive today. Glad to hear the finishing line is today!

25/09/14, 10:20h – Mile 10: Happy to have made it to double figures, but feeling weary of the course. Get up to walk around and immediately vomit. Am hungry, but no food stops allowed on this route.

25/09/14, 12h – Mile 13: Pace has slowed and am feeling the pain as contractions come faster and harder and I can no longer deal with them. Have an epidural and the relief is immediate. Get back into my groove.

25/09/14, 12:38h – Mile 14: Massive uphill. Epidural stops working. Midwife tries top-ups. Pumping arms, working legs, breathing, but this slope seems effing vertical!

25/09/14, 14:45h  – Mile 17: Trying some music to distract me from overwhelming exhaustion, pain and a general feeling that the finishing line is still a very, very long way off. Is that The Wall I see in front of me?

25/09/14, 15:20h – Mile 18.5: At last, the drug man comes back and gets the epidural right! I feel weightless and in control of my race again. A bit. But realise I am totally not. Support team are brilliant.

25/09/14, 17:50h – Mile 22: Pushing for the finishing line like my life depends on it. Feel like I am running through mud. Starting to think the race organisers have changed what a marathon means and I’ll be here forever. Try to chill in between bursts of speed.

25/09/14, 19:35h – Mile 24: The mud is getting thicker and I’m running through fog. This race will never end.

25/09/14, 20:10h – Mile 25: I see the one-mile-to-go marker when the doctor comes and announces we’ll use some forceps to get over the line. Still don’t believe there’s a measly mile to go. I think it’s a precursor to the home straight and don’t let myself get too excited.

25/09/14, 20:40h – Mile 26: The midwife is shouting that the finishing line is close. I cannot believe her. I still think she’s just motivating me. I can’t see it through all the mud and fog.

25/09/14, 20:42h – Mile 26.2: Suddenly there is a massive cry from the sidelines and I am over the line! Pure joy and relief sweep over me as I am handed my prize: a big, beautiful baby boy.

 

DSC_0536Nahuel Darwin Alonso, newest member of M&MRC.

Dick running motivation

Some of you runners and/or Guardian readers might already have come across this, but it’s worth a share if you haven’t. Claire Wyckoff, a runner based in San Francisco, makes her runs all the more inviting, motivating and special by using her Nike+ to map out interesting routes. What’s new about this? you might ask.

Her routes are penises, dogs and generally cool shapes. Space invaders, anyone? I can imagine there’s nothing like knowing you’re rounding the curve of a penis to push you that bit further and get to the sweaty balls to finish your run.

Some of us invest time in searching for new kit, new gadgets, new training programmes. Isn’t this just plain silliness, mapping out weird and wonderful shapes? I would disagree. While the latest scarily pink head band might get some out there exercising, this gets Claire out there. Fun and fitness in one fell swoop, with a little bit of gadgetry art thrown in for good measure. I’m all for it. Go plan a penis.

Picture from Claire Wyckoff – see more of Claire’s running art work on her website: http://clairewyckoff.com/Running-Drawing

Or read the full Guardian article here: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/aug/06/runner-nike-san-francisco-penis

Don’t stop

There are people around me training for marathons. The training is to be expected: up and down, hit and miss, fabulous and like death. I saw this today and thought of my previous marathon training and the super tough long run when I hit 16 miles. It was evil and hard and I thought I was going to die, but something, something in me made me not walk. Stubbornness, idiocy, a second, third, fortieth wind; whatever it was, I didn’t stop.

IT PAINS ME TO CONTINUE. IT HURTS MUCH MORE TO STOP

Keep going, friends.

 

 

The mountains win again

It doesn’t feel like winter. Today was a sunny and warm 13 degrees here in Luxembourg. Where did winter disappear to? I can’t believe that two months ago today we were arriving in the mountains of the Black Forest geared up to ski for a week. Great white puffy snowflakes fell. It was another world.

I never wrote about our run in the mountains. Obviously after a day on the slopes (and hiking up the mountain with our skis on occasion) I didn’t really feel the need to run afterwards. A hot shower, yes. A large mug of gluwein, yes. But a run? No thanks.

However, one day, the last day of 2013, we got back from the slopes a little earlier that usual. The sun hadn’t yet dipped behind the peaks in the far distance. The sky was a crisp blue. We were full of the joy of the approaching new year. Our legs, momentarily, forgot they had worked all day. We got back and decided to go for a run. It as then or never.

IMG_3289Of course, in a ski village, a run means hills. Mountains. We had two choices. Start going up. Or start going down. Our last trip to the Black Forest we’d started the wrong way round (read it HERE) so we headed up the mountain.

Whizzing down the mountain on skis in no way prepares the legs for running back up it. Not for me anyway. But as hard as it was, there was something delightful in this sadomasochistic turn we had taken. Pumping the arms, passing grandparents pulling little children up the road on sledges, trying not to slip on the snow. It was puffing madness, but it felt great.

At the turn to come back down we could just go for it. Relax a little and let gravity take us. I’m not sure it was quite as exhilarating as skiing down the mountain, but it sure felt good. There was time to marvel at the views, gaze at the slopes we’d been traversing just an hour before. IMG_3298

After watching the impressive feats in the Winter Olympics, mountains offer a whole range of challenges that make you tired just thinking about them. But they are also magical, majestic. And if you do happen to conquer your own little one, it makes you feel majestic, too.

IMG_3294

Oh, deception

I am not a runner. You can’t not run and be a runner, can you? Runners, please forgive me.

After my last post, I wanted my first post-holiday write to be full of sweat and smiles at the miles I ran in Buenos Aires. This was my intention. This was no lie.

But my mile total for the two week-vacation? A big, fat zero.

I only have myself to blame. The chances we had to run in Puerto Madero when we were staying in the city, I forgot my all running stuff. Then came a huge storm. Then I just overslept. We sat at a cafe in the sun as some rowers glided through the shimmering water of the docks; as rollerbladers sailed by; and as runners trotted past on this well-worn and much-loved old route of mine. I watched them with a half-smile, but it was as if I was behind a pane of glass. I wanted to reach out and join them, but there was no way through.

I am an idiot.

So, it was up to the pool and miles and miles of blocks to walk for exercise. Which worked. But it’s not romantic like running is.

We got back to Luxembourg this week and the routine of running along the rivers has already set in. It’s not as cold as last winter by any means. Crisp and showery, yes. Cold and biting, no. Martín has started his marathon training. He’ll be running the Luxembourg marathon at the end of May. Maria is well into her training plan. Another friend is gunning for her first half marathon this weekend. I am surrounded by people with running goals. I need one.

I think the first is just to remember my trainers, don’t you?

Heading to the heat

In 40 hours, it will be upon me. It will cover me, press into me so I don’t know where it finishes and I begin. I will be lightheaded with relief and joy. It will keep me awake; I will dream of it. It will tear me apart and keep me together.

I will return to Buenos Aires.

It’s been over a year since my last run there (with Maria, the morning of my wedding) and as I pack too many clothes for what will be a shorts and bikinis trip, I think back to that run and what it means to run in Buenos Aires.

Part of the Nike 10km Red River, 2009

Part of the Nike 10km Red River, 2009

Firstly, it’s where M&MRC started. Its streets gave us the confidence to dare to dream of 26.2 miles. Its crazy weather: heat, humidity, storms, rains that turns streets into rivers, wind born in Patagonia made us almost crazy ourselves. The sheer number of fun runs and charity runs offered M&MRC the chance to be part of many coloured, bobbing masses.

There will be sweat and I am most looking forward to it. The tingling sting of skin warmed by the sun and its own sweat; the salt patterning down my shins; the dive into the cool pool post-run and the extra beat your heart gives you: you are alive.

Of course, all my in-laws and friends will think I am mad. They will look at me as if going for a run in the humidity that sits around them is confirmation of what a nutter I am. They will offer me iced-water on my return, my limbs glistening with perspiration, my eye-lashes holding back the salty-drips running into my eyes. They will say well done and not really know why.

But I will. Buenos Aires, here I come.P1060156