The Blonde Runs

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Aussie East Coast Road Trip: Christmas at Bondi Beach

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On 24 December, Nick and I left Canberra for the start of this massive adventure.

This was one of the places I actually booked accommodation. Not surprisingly, most hotels and hostels close to the beach were booked, save a few outrageous spots that we refused to pay for. Airbnb is always among my favorites to search through, and I was able to find a unit only a couple blocks from Bondi! It was affordable and closer than any other hotel could have placed us, in that area.

This year’s Christmas was a bit different. Really different. For one, it didn’t even feel like Christmas. In the weeks leading up, thanks to the warm, long days of a southern hemisphere summer, it seemed more like Christmas in July. Commercials with Aussies’s on the beach, dressed in togs (swimsuits). People out shopping, collecting Christmas trees and decor in their thongs (flip-flops), all while blasting the AirCon. A fake Christmas. This fact alone was strange enough. Not to mention family, friends, traditions, decorations, and the like were all absent. It all sounds much more pitiful than it really was; but what I’m trying to get across is that it just didn’t feel…right.

We did our best though, to add some Christmas spirit. Christmas “tree” at the beach (see photo above), reindeer ears and Santa hats, home cooked Christmas dinner, and of course Christmas crackers. We Skyped with our families and overall, it wasn’t so bad to be Christmas Orphans. Just a new memory and experience to share.

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Bondi itself was much less busy than I expected. And much calmer. It was not a crazy beach party, with thousands of co-eds dancing to Aussie electronic music with their brightly colored Wayfarer sunglasses, togs and budgie smugglers (swimsuits and Speedos), like pictures may portray. Instead, it was simply families and friends relaxing on the beach, sometimes getting their photos taken with the blow-up Santa and Snowman. And maybe with a cheeky (saucy/smart-alecky) bottle of champagne or other grog (beer or alcohol)…otherwise prohibited on the beach. Pretty sure there have been some problems in the past and “alcohol prohibited zones” have been set up in certain areas of Australia.

On Boxing Day, 26 December, we ran a bit of the Bondi to Coogee Beach Coastal Walk. Packed up, and started heading north again.

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24 December to 26 December
This stretch – Canberra to Bondi Beach ~293km/182m
Total: ~293km/182m
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XO,

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Aussie East Coast Road Trip: The How

IMG_9832Dusting off the blog with a series of posts about Nick’s and my recent road trip along the east coast of Australia.  I mean, why do a measly post about my lack of running, when I can post several times over the next few weeks about all the kilometers we racked up, all the beaches we visited, and overload you with all the photos?!  I think this is a much better option…

Let’s begin with how this all came about.  Since moving to Australia, Nick and I spoke frequently about the places we’d like to visit during our duration.  Not really knowing how long we’d be here, we knew we wanted to make the most of our time, and see as much as we could, at least within the restrictions of work and money.  So, we kind of had a verbal short list and long list of everything we wanted to do/see, based on those restrictions.

“Wouldn’t it be cool if….”

“I’d love to see…”

“I just read about…”

“Someone suggested ___ and ___ …”

“If we had two weeks, we could go…”

“But if we had three weeks, we could…”

And so the conversations went.  And the dreams grew. And the excitement started building.  Especially when we found out Nick’s work would be shutting down for a good amount of time over the Christmas and New Year holiday.  Then those dreaming conversations turned into a matter-of-fact:

Let’s do it!”

So we started planning a road trip that would cover the majority of the eastern coast of Australia.  Well…kind of.  “Planning” is a tricky word. And this is where Nick’s and my love for travel and experiences and outlook on how it all should go down differs.  A lot.  But don’t worry, we know this about each other and it was only annoying a few times during the trip.  Let me lay it out for you a bit, in regards to how we wanted to approach this trip:

Nick:  Go with the flow; have a few must-do experiences; have a few specific spots in mind to visit; don’t make any accommodations so we aren’t confined, but just see where we end up each day and then find a place to stay; hire a car in Cairns; but let’s have fun!

Rebekah:  Type A; decide where we are going to be each night so we can book accommodation (it’s summer holiday and the coast is busy); decide on what exactly we want to do so we can book in for those must-do experiences (it’s summer holiday and the coast is busy); not plan every minute of every day, but at least have a rough outline so we aren’t wasting time making last-minute decisions; but let’s have fun!

So yeah, a little different.  But I was determined to calm my Type A personality and travel how Nick does.  At least for part of the trip.  I did book accommodation for Christmas and New Year, because, well, that’s just a given.  And the rest, I was just mildly concerned that we’d miss out on experiences because we didn’t pre-book, or we wouldn’t find ideal accommodation because we also didn’t pre-book.  This trip would stretch me.  And I was prepared and mostly okay with it.

Once things were set in stone that this trip was, in fact, happening, Nick was able to convince his brother, Jason, to fly out from Minnesota and join us for part of our adventure.  Not long after, his sister, Tia (also from Minnesota), found a way to make the trip happen as well.  And just like that, we had travel companions! And it was family!

The route began to take shape, based on their arrival into Brisbane on 30 Dec, their departure out of Sydney on 13 Jan, some technicalities with our vehicle (more on that in later posts), and a lot of “maybe we could do this”, before, during, and after his siblings visit.

Roughly, this is what Nick and I covered over the span of 4 weeks: 

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Don’t be fooled by the distance stated on that map. It was actually closer to 7200 kilometers (about 4500 miles-and I’ll have the official total in the final post) because it doesn’t take into consideration the initial trip Nick and I drove into Brisbane, nor does it have all of the little out and backs we took to visit beaches, waterfalls, etc. I’ll go into more detail in subsequent posts with maps, and kilometers/mileage, photos, what we saw, what we didn’t do, etc. You’ll be bored. This is mostly for posterity.

And if you follow me on IG, you may have noticed the recent photodoc of the trip under #australeoni.

XO,


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…just when I thought I was ready

Just when I thought I was ready to start training, add a little umfph to my workouts, alas, a slight setback.  While I wasn’t really sure what to attribute it to, my right hamstring is feeling rather tight.

Since arriving in Australia a little over three months ago, I’ve played it “safe” with running.  I’ve not been training.  I’ve not ramped up my miles drastically.  I’ve not even done any real speed work.  I’ve only maintained about 30 miles a week that included a weekend long run of about 10-13 miles.  This is nothing I wouldn’t normally do when I’m in my off-season.  So, what gives?

After running a 12 miler over a month ago, in preparation for my 32k relay leg, my right hamstring seized up. There was never any sharp pain, never a time in the run where I could pinpoint that something had happened. It just wouldn’t relax afterward. Then, the following weekend, after actually running the 32k leg of the relay race, I knew I should get some advice on the situation. Especially since I was just beginning to feel a solid routine with my weekly mileage and starting to get the tiniest little niggle of wanting to start training for something. Anything.

After three weeks of PT, I am finally feeling somewhat “better.” The pain has been attributed to my lower back and great pains have been taken to relax it, including dry needling, which is truly a great pain. But I stick with all of my exercises and hope for the best. On a pain scale of 1-10, I’m down to a 3ish on each run. Which is drastically better than what it was even a week ago. I dropped my weekly mileage by about half and eliminated my long runs for the past few weeks. Better to preserve the old bones for November races, and I do have November races. So, now that I’m feeling better, time to slowly, smartly, add a few miles here and there.

What’s hard is that I’m considering myself injured, without having done anything to actually prompt it. I mean, maybe if I had been up to 65 mile weeks, at the peak of training, I could understand aches and pains and pulls and such. But not this.

I suppose, as usual, running is a metaphor for life. When you feel like you’re in a groove, things are smooth, and then…WHAM! Out of nowhere, something happens to shake it up. What’s important is how you react/respond to the situation and keep a good attitude.

Thanks for the “life” reminder, Running…

XO,


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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,