The Blonde Runs

an American girl living in Australia


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…two valuable Aussie lessons learned during a 101k relay

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On 28 September, I learned two vitally important lessons on a 32k relay leg.

Not long ago, I started running with a sweet gal here in Canberra. She invited me on a group long run and after some soft hazing I was immediately asked to join one of their two relays teams running the upcoming Sri Chinmoy 101k relay. I said yes, immediately.

While I was initially going to run Leg 4, I switched with another relay member to take on the longest Leg 2, at 32k (about 20 miles). I had been building up to running about 10-13 milers for my long runs, but I knew the 20 miler would be an effort, and I was up for the challenge.

The day started cool, but began warming up as I stood around, waiting at the exchange between Leg 1 and 2. Good thing I had lathered on the sunscreen. Amanda and Phil would be coming in for the hand-off to Jasmina and me. Our portion of the course would take us on a steep climb to the Mt Arawang summit, took us along the backside of the National Zoo, and had us finishing at the National Arboretum. It was truly a beautiful course, predominately on trails, with kangaroo sightings, gate climbing, and only a little bit of terror…

VALUABLE LESSON #1
The deadly snakes and spiders that I am terrified of in this country have NOTHING on the magpies. While I’ve been looking down at the trail all the time, paranoid about the snakes that aren’t even out yet, I realized I should really be looking up, at those annoying black and white birds that sing that beautiful, throaty song. At least during the spring. Swooping Australian Magpies. This is a very real thing, readers. More in Canberra than other Aussie cities.

Proof.

And all of this came to a head, when at the 10k mark, some of our teammates were waiting to cheer for us, and WARN us of the swooping Magpies up ahead on the course. We were given a hat, to wave it around in hopes of warding off the swooping. My heart skipped a beat. Maybe two. I really didn’t want to be attacked and have to get stitches from some bird who felt I was threatening a nest and thus pecked my head or my eyes or my back or something of that nature. I think I started waving the the hat around my head immediately, even though I didn’t see any Magpies. Jasmina calmly told me that I didn’t need to do that yet…

We saw several Magpie on the telephone wires and on the ground. I waved the hat, I looked around frantically, but we ran through the grassy knoll unscathed. I’m pretty sure the birds knew I was a Oiselle runner, and thus, one of them. Bird to bird, we had an understanding.

I pretty much have no choice but to not run, or not leave my house, until breeding/nesting season is over. So, November. And if I do leave my house at all, I must wear only black, gray, and white. I’d hate to provoke them by wearing orange, yellow, and purple during this time.

It’s no wonder that I see bikers with zip ties attached to their helmets, or eyes glued to the back of their helmets (Magpies won’t attack if they see you looking at them). But I refuse to wear those things will running!

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Jasmina and I continued on, chatting, hiking the hills, watching for Magpies, and climbing over gates. While I was originally somewhat concerned about navigating the course, the RD had marked it all quite well! I never questioned which turn to take which really took the guesswork out of it all. Thank goodness.

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The final 10k was fairly uncomfortable with the heat. I can’t say it was considerably HOT, temperature wise, but the direct sun, and very little shade made whatever the temperature was feel much warmer. We’d get a little bit of reprieve when the wind kicked up, which felt so nice. The few miles leading up into the National Arboretum and our exchange point were uphill. I think Jasmina and I were both ready to hand over the run to our strong Leg 3 ladies.

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And when I went home to clean up and nap, I saw this:
Sunburn

Oops. (No, I’m not a lefty. Yes, I wear my watch on the “wrong” wrist.)

VALUABLE LESSON #2
There is a hole in the ozone layer directly over Australia, and the usual 30 SPF I use in the Mile High State of Colorado does NOT work. I am no stranger to sun exposure. Having lived the majority of my 33 years in sunny Colorado, at 5280 feet, and I am adamant about wearing sunscreen daily. At least on my face, if not elsewhere, depending on the season and my clothing and the type of activity. Knowing that Canberra is not at sea level, but at about 1800 feet, I naively assumed that what I would usually use on a Colorado mountain run would be suitable for a trail run in Canberra. Not. So.

Looks like I’ll need to up the sunscreen (sun cream?) anti whilst here… Understatement of the century.

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All in all, it was a fabulous day and the race was a lot of fun. Of course, I can say this nearly two weeks later!

XO,


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…Sydney 1/2 Marathon (aka 21k)

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Well, this is the start of the Sydney Running Festival…who wouldn’t want to run in this race, just based on the backdrop?! Whether for pleasure or for pain?!

While originally planning to run with Nick, he had to pull out due to some nasty shin splints. No one wants to run a 1/2 marathon on that sort of pain. Luckily, I had a new running friend, Amanda, who wanted to take the trip to Sydney with us. I was happy to have a race partner! I would also be representing fivemore, who had Oiselle tanks designed with the FiveMore running logo.

The Start
As seen above, the start, in and of itself, is amazing. I have only dreamed of running in such spectacular places with iconic locations as my background. I know people probably say the same things about cities in the US, but when you are actually there, you just can’t really believe it! Once you get over the sheer awe of where you are, you realize this is a pretty big race. 3,200 for the full, 7,800 for the 1/2; not to mention the 11,900 running the 9k and the 5,000 for the 3.5k fun run. Those are decent numbers. A lot can go wrong when organizing a race event for that amount of people. A lot can go wrong for races of a much smaller number. We’ve all seen those failures. But not this one! Organized, easy to figure out where you need to be, and given the world “issues” leading up to this race (even in the very city I was racing), I felt very safe. My mother wanted to know. :)

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The Course
The course is truly beautiful, taking you almost immediately over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which is closed down from 4am-11am. From there, you weave around the sights of Sydney, with either the Opera House or the Bridge in nearly every view. I wanted to keep my head up, eyes up, for this one. When I’m too focused on a time or a pace, I tend to miss so much around me. Let’s be honest, I tend to miss a lot around me when I’m NOT racing at all! So, I kept in my conscious to just take it all in and enjoy this course. The course was predominately made up of out-and-backs with hairpin u-turns, but I think that was sort of the point so you could remain in the heart of Sydney. It lightly rained off and on during the first half of the course and remained overcast and cool for the rest of the race.

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The Finish
The final quarter mile or so, has the runners on the harbour boardwalk and finishing at the steps of the Opera House. Ah-may-zing. Amanda and I crossed the finish together, holding hands, and with our arms lifted high. Okay, not really…
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The finish line festivities were a bit spread out to get everyone moving and prevent any clustering. Catherine had a delicious spread in a nearby pergola, for those on the fivemore running team, including coconut water, fruit, and energy bars. And with another Opera House backdrop, pictures couldn’t be denied.
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So, you pretty much have to put this race on your wish list.

XO,


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…playing on Bondi Beach

When I moved to Australia in July, I was well aware that there was ONE store in the whole of this beautiful country/continent/island that sold Oiselle. And I was going to connect with them. I didn’t care how far from Canberra it was. Luckily, Fivemore was located in Sydney, a mere 3 hour drive from where Nick and I are living. For us, this is about as far a drive to many of our favorite Colorado mountain towns, and a weekend getaway. After visiting Fivemore upon my arrival, Catherine, the owner, and I started discussing the possibility of some PR opportunities surrounding the Sydney Running Festival in mid-September. She had some amazing ideas that would certainly get me out of my comfort zone, and put this mountain girl in her place. Sweetly, and gently, of course. And as this past weekend began approaching, all systems were go for a fun, and memorable weekend.

On Saturday, I arrived at Bondi Beach to meet Sally (Fivemore’s very own running coach) and Catherine for a Oiselle soft sand running photo shoot. As it turns out, there really is a proper running form to adhere to when soft sand running. You don’t just go out and run on the sand for a few miles and expect to look and feel awesome. Sally gave me some pointers (as she is an expert, and the face of a huge soft sand running event in Manly), but I know I just looked liked a wannabe, fumbling next to her graceful stride. Where were the dirty trails? The steep mountain grades? The 14,000 foot peaks? Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Colorado anymore… But given some time, I think I could really enjoy this soft sand running bit. Granted, there is the ONE technicality of the lack of sand in Canberra.

A few photos Nick snapped. Maybe I can get my hands on some of the professional shots at a later date.

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Following the soft sand running, the ever-generous Catherine, set up a surf lesson for me, for a true “two worlds collided” experience. Because let’s be honest, what popular sport in Australia is not so popular in landlocked Colorado? I’m not going to lie, I was pretty nervous. And that’s putting it lightly. But I think I held it together fairly well. And once I was in the water, I forgot to be nervous at all.

Getting all of the ocean floor details from Conrad.
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I even stood up the majority of the time! No comments on my form, but based on the fact that I even stood up at all on my first go, I’m pretty sure I’m a natural. ;)

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And the consensus? I LOVED it! I know I wasn’t on any big waves or anything, but just after an initial lesson, I am fully interested in giving it another go! Bring on summer!

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XO,


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…Canberra Times Fun Run 10k

A few weekends ago, Nick and I ran a local fun run here in Canberra, aptly named the Canberra Times Fun Run.  There were 3 race distances to choose from, and we opted for the middle distance, the 10k.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  I hate to base all of my “local 10k fun run” experiences on the Bolder Boulder with over 50,000 runners, because that just isn’t fair. I knew the CT Fun Run was a long-standing tradition for the area, with 4,500 runners covering all 3 distances, and over $120,000 raised for a variety of charities, this was certainly one race to be a part of. 

The day was sunny, though not quite warm at the start. I decided to let Nick set the pace, and just planned to stay right next to him. This was his second 10k and even though he didn’t know it, he was going to PR. Whether he wanted to or not. And my Type-A, goal setting, personality was going to make it happen. :)

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The course, a simple point to point,

weaves its way through the picturesque streets of Canberra, starting at Yamba Drive in Phillip, continuing along Adelaide Avenue, passing Parliament House, over Lake Burley Griffin and finishing with spectacular views of The Carillon on Aspen Island.

It was a quiet start, with the simple pounding of pavement and everyone finding their groove. I think it’s my favorite part of any race. As we progressed, it quickly warmed up and the miles started to fly. Nick was rocking it. He was keeping a pretty steady, solid pace throughout, just like us crazy obsessed runners like to do. No, Nick is not one of these people. Only room in our house for one of those types.

We ran into the busy finish with Nick’s 10k PR! I think I was happier for him than he was for himself! Haha!

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And that’s a quick wrap!

XO,


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…fun running in Oz with race plans

A while back (aka, the last time I blogged), I mentioned that I needed a season to just run for fun.  After some serious training cycles in the previous 12 months, getting married, and moving Down Under, I just haven’t felt much motivation to pick a goal race and train my heart out.  Granted, there are plenty of days I simply feel a bit “lost” without a training plan.  But I am trying to ignore that feeling and continue with what I know is truly best for my mind and body right now.

I have really been enjoying getting to know Canberra on foot.  It is small enough of a city, that I’ve plotted out several “run tours” in the past weeks that have taken me around to some iconic locations:  Parliament House, the Embassies, Royal Australian Mint, National Museum of Australia, National War Memorial, as well as summiting Red Hill and Mount Ainslie multiple times.

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Most recently, I have been running with a group who has taken me off the beaten path and onto some true Canberra trails/tracks for what feels often like authentic Cross Country running.  We’re talking dirt, hills, through paddocks and herds of cows, half dozen fence crossings, through brambles and drainage pipes, with heaps of kangaroo sightings and views for miles.  These are the runs I live for.  And while it’s all for this group’s training for an upcoming 101k relay race, that seems to double as orienteering, I am happy to join in on these somewhat random point-to-point runs.

The Valley

 

Mount Taylor

And then I was asked to join one of the teams.

Always up for an adventure, I naturally said yes.  I think almost immediately.  It will fit in nicely with the other 2 races I’ve signed up for in September…

The Sydney Half, 21 September, was the original “fun run” race that I registered Nick and I for nearly a month ago.  As Nick’s 3rd half marathon, and scenic views (including, running over the Sydney Harbour Bridge), as well as running with the FiveMore team (Oiselle reseller in Sydney), we want to just enjoy this 13.1 miler for all that it will be.  No racing.

Then, on 7 September, I registered Nick and I for the Canberra Times Fun Run 10k.  And with “fun run” in the name, we can’t really take it too seriously, right?  This 10k was intended to be a little tune-up before the Sydney Half.  No racing.

So, along comes the invitation to run a trail relay on 28 September, 23k (14ish miles?) and how can I possibly say no?  I wouldn’t dare.  And this will be a race to remember, as it doubles as orienteering!  Whether intentional or not.  My leg of the race, Leg 4, has nearly TWO pages of typed out directions for the route.  Here is an example of the said directions:

At the track split near Madigan St (0.62) take the left hand fork closest to Phillip Ave, and continue straight ahead up past a yellow pole (0.82), across a path (0.92; at Kellaway St) and 30m later turn left at the green Nature Park gate (0.95) to join a track heading past the Kellaway St Car Park.

Here’s another:

From the Trig, retrace your steps back down through the gate (6.63) to head back the way you came but this time continue straight ahead down the ridgeline past (7.48) the point where you originally joined it. It quickly narrows to ST and then descends through a series of zigzags: zig left (7.92), zag right (8.04), zig left (8.33), zag right (8.49), through metal stile (8.51), becomes sealed with some steps (8.82).

Yeah.  I’m pretty sure those are kilometer markings, and NOT mile markings.  So, I’m naturally going to mess this up, just based on that.  Not to mention all of the zigging, zagging, retracing of steps, and yellow poles that I could miss.  I best run this prior to the actual race.  I’d hate to be the American girl who can’t hold her own on the Aussie tracks.

But overall the lack of pressure I am putting on myself for these “races” is so delicious, I can nearly taste it.  At least, I think.  I hope.  I suppose this is how you fun run and still make race plans.  Because how can you move internationally and NOT run in the local races?!

XO,


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…new tracks and Aussie wildlife

I’ve officially been living Down Under for about a MONTH now.

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Where did the time go? Well, from settling in, to a couple of weekend trips, learning to navigate public transportation, walk on the left side of the sidewalk and store aisles, order a Long Black or a Flat White, switch from Fahrenheit to Celsius, and other foreign measurements, try to understand all the tricky Aussie slang, this-that-and-the-other, here we are!

As I’ve casually mentioned before, it’s winter. But not Colorado winter. No snow. No sub-0 degree mornings (back on the Fahrenheit scale here). Just 40’s and 50’s with some wind and some rain. Mostly tolerable, especially since we are now on the upswing to Spring. September 1. Or is it 1 September? Regardless, no Solsticing here. And I’m counting the days to Spring.

I am happy to say that running has been feeling much better. After several runs with aches, pains, and just generally feeling not awesome, I think I can finally say I’ve worked out some of those kinks. I like when running feels more fluid. Still not up for any intense training, but at least each run is back to a relative comfort level.

Exploring local running “tracks” has been the most exciting! Last week, I ran a trail less than 2 miles from my house, and came across some wildlife that I realized I was completely inept in regards to my defense tactics: Kangaroos. Now, I should know exactly what to do when I come across bear, coyote, elk, deer, moose, mountain lion, etc. Running ANY trail in Colorado could put you face-to-face with one of these creatures, and you better know what to do! So, when I came across an entire mob of kangaroo, some a mere handful of yards away, some right on the running track, just staring at me, I was at a complete loss.

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Do I find two sticks, clap them together, and make a lot of noise? Do I make myself as big as I can? Do I climb a eucalyptus tree? Do I back away slowly, silently? Do I play dead? Do I crouch under a group of trees, up on my toes, and make like a ball? No…that’s for lightening storms.

So, I did what anyone would do. I took out my phone and started taking heaps of pictures. All the while exclaiming under my breath, “No way,” “Unbelievable,” “Ohmygosh,” and the like.

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I spotted a local walking on the trail coming toward me, so I thought I’d take a cue from him as I continued to take pictures. They clearly didn’t faze him at all, as he continued to walk, seemingly without notice of so many, so close.

I eagerly admitted my ignorance by asking right away, “Will they attack?” Hoping my American accent would justify my stupid question.

As if reading my mind, the first thing he asked was, “Where are you from?” Satisfied with my answer (“The States”) he said, they won’t attack unless they are cornered; which clearly they weren’t in that position on the top of Red Hill. They will typically just retreat as you approach. Shy creatures.

I moved on, discovering more as I ran. These looked ridiculously fake. As if they had been stuffed and placed on the track.

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While probably not a big deal to Aussies, as they see kangaroo frequently, my mind is completely blown!

XO,


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…a visit to Five More and Sydney

This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to take an early peek at a new activewear/lifestyle clothing store opening in the Paddington suburb of Sydney, Australia. Paddington, in and of itself, is chic and trendy, with Victorian-clad shop fronts featuring boutiques, cafes, art galleries, and wine. And its’ bustling Oxford Street is the ideal place for Five More to set up a brick and mortar (originally an online-only store). I met with the lovely Catherine, the brain behind the boutique, as she was putting the final touches on her beautiful space.

Of course, Five More sells a brand that is near and dear to my heart: Oiselle. And I loved hearing Catherine talk about how well this US-based brand is doing in Australia.

Catherine dressed all of her window store-front dollies from head to toe in Oiselle. What a sight!

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I am excited for Five More and all of their potential, as well as that of Oiselle in a relatively untapped area.

Afterwards, Nick and I did some Sydney touristy things:

Sydney Opera House
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Sydney Harbour Bridge
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Bondi Beach
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XO,

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