What I learned from my fourth half-marathon

I guess these are a tradition now (although I never wrote one for the Wellington half-marathon, my third last year) and now that I’m just a few months out from running my first full marathon I think it’s even more important for me to take a look at my race and think about what I learned.

Yesterday I ran the half-marathon event at Run Melbourne in 1:54:21, beating my previous personal best by over two minutes. Apart from a shiny medal and tired quads, here’s what I took away from it:

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Continue reading “What I learned from my fourth half-marathon”

What I learned from my Second Half-Marathon

About a year and a half ago I ran my first half-marathon. Then I all but stopped running. It’s not that I don’t enjoy running, because I obviously do or I wouldn’t have run a half to begin with, but first I was taking a break after all that training; then the weather was too hot; then too cold; then we were living in a van. Next thing I knew it was a year and a half later and I hadn’t run in ages. When I moved to Wellington I decided to sign up for the Round the Bays half, convinced Steve to do the same, and started running again. I learned a lot from the Vancouver Half-Marathon, my first-ever race, but I still picked up a few new insights this time around.

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Before the race and ready to run!

The first thing I learned is that in some ways, it is like that old adage about riding a bicycle. Obviously you’re not going to jump back into running after not training for ages and immediately be able to run that whole 13.1mi/21.1km, but running a race requires mental training as well as physical. Before training for my first half-marathon I had never run 13.1 miles before. The longest run I could find in my Runkeeper records was 10 miles, way back in 2012. Usually I topped out around 5 or 6.

Training for my second half-marathon was different because I knew I could finish it. I had a good suspicion that I could back in Vancouver, but for this one I already knew because I had done it before. Getting over that mental hurdle (running pun, ha ha) made it much easier to jump into training and push myself toward that 13.1 mile goal.

While the first thing I learned came at the very start of my training for Round the Bays, the second arrived at the very end, as I crossed the finish line. I ran my first half-marathon in 2:08:12. That time around, I didn’t have a goal time because I had no benchmark for how fast I was and I just wanted to finish. This race, my goal was to finish in two hours or less. And… I didn’t. According to the official race results, my final time was 2:00:42. Just 42 seconds longer than my goal: close, but not quite there.

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After the race and ready to sit!

I’m a perfectionist, and I hate not meeting my own expectations. There are a lot of excuses that can be made– a serious head wind for most of the course, a rumour that the track is just a bit longer than a half-marathon (and the GPS on my phone would seem to back that up)–but at the end of the day, I just didn’t quite get there. Usually I’m pretty hard on myself when I “fail” at something, so I expected to feel disappointed that I didn’t achieve my goal.

Instead I felt proud and excited. I cut seven-and-a-half minutes off my previous time, with half as much training as I did for the last race. I also felt energized–after my last half-marathon I felt like there was no way I could see myself running a full marathon in the future. Now? It seems like a definite possibility (with a good bit more training first, of course). I’m happy to celebrate my victories instead of dwelling on my “failure,” and now I have a goal to work toward in my next half.

My main goal is to not stop running for over a year like I did after the Vancouver half. I’m enjoying a week off from running this week to rest and recharge, but I’m looking forward to getting back to it next week and breaking that sub-2 hour barrier in my next race for sure! And maybe then I’ll be ready to turn 13.1 into 26.2! Or not, but I’ll be glad to succeed or fail at whatever comes next.

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My unofficial race results—ready to do even better next time!

Upside-Down Living

It’s been about a month and a half since Steve and I arrived in New Zealand on our 12-month working holiday visas and moved down to Wellington for the year. We’ve experienced a lot of cool things already—first time in Asia on our way over, first time in the Southern Hemisphere, first summer Christmas—and there are more to come—next week is my first summer birthday, and we’ll be spending it on our first overnight hike. This week our adventures are mostly stymied by rain and job-hunting, but I thought I’d take a break from firing off CVs and share a few of my thoughts on New Zealand so far.

  • Wellington has great local hikes

We’ve been lucky enough to make friends with cars who have been kind enough to take us along to a few trails, and we’re going to look into purchasing a vehicle of our own, but even if you have no access to a car here in Welly, there are still a lot of great hiking options. The closest is Mount Victoria, only a few minutes’ walk from the CBD (and where the hobbits hid from the ringwraiths under a log in The Fellowship of the Ring), but there are numerous other hikes of varying lengths and difficulties only a bus ride away. The photos in this post are from a few of my favourite hikes we’ve been on around Wellington so far.

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The view from up on Mount Vic
  • Flat whites and hokey pokey are amazing

I always thought that flat whites were an Aussie invention, but according to Wikipedia New Zealand claims it as well, so I’m counting it. I’d heard of flat whites before coming to the southern hemisphere, but I’d never tried one and now I’m hooked. It’s like a latte but less milky, a cappuccino but less foamy, the perfect combination to create a delicious coffee. I only had one for the first time about two weeks ago, and I’ve probably had five since. Similarly, hokey pokey is basically honeycomb ice cream, but somehow it’s so much better. There are these little crunch pebbles of honeycomb that sort of pop in your mouth and create a delicious sweet tweet.

  • Getting a response is nice

It’s inevitable: when you’re job hunting, you will get rejected. Not every position is the right fit. Still, even if a job is a reach, there’s nothing more annoying than getting the professional equivalent of being left on “read”. Now, I don’t know if it’s actually a positive of kiwi culture or a negative of other places I’ve gone job-searching, but I’ve already gotten a number of responses—positive and negative—to applications I’ve sent in. Obviously, getting rejected is never fun, but it’s so much nicer to know one way or another rather than wondering whether maybe you’re the ideal candidate but your application accidentally ended up in the spam folder.

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Hiking up to the Brooklyn turbine
  • Summer holidays are actually great

I arrived in Ireland in the middle of October and the Christmas holidays were already in full force. I personally hate hearing holiday tunes or seeing decorations before December, so that was far too early for me, but it was equally weird at first to get to Wellington in December and see almost nothing festive. However, I came to appreciate the holidays happening in the middle of summer—the weather is warm so you’re not stuck at home, students are in the midst of a much larger break from school, and there’s definitely something to be said for a Christmas BBQ. It’s especially nice when you have great friends whose family takes you in for the day.

  • For a small city, there’s so much to do

Wellington has 200,000 fewer people than Seattle and Vancouver—and when you include the metro populations both cities’ populations are closer to the entire population of New Zealand than they are to its capitol. I grew up in a small town and have lived in small cities, but I’ve gotten used to living in bustling metropolises so I was curious what it would be like to move back to a smaller city. If I had any worry that there wouldn’t be enough to do, my fears were immediately allayed when we checked into our hostel and found a summer night market going on outside. There are countless meetups, events, and other activities happening throughout the city. I can’t wait to explore even more!

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We actually cycled to Red Rocks, but I’m going to come back and walk it because biking over the soft sand and rocks was hard af
  • Sometimes you just have to commit

Ever since I ran a half-marathon in 2016 I’ve been talking about running another. The truth is, I’ve barely gone running at all since that race. Vancouver weather isn’t conducive to runs (super hot summers, super slushy winters) and unsurprisingly, neither is living in a van. I realised when I came over here that I probably wouldn’t start running again unless I actually signed up for a race, so when a friend mentioned Round the Bays I immediately registered. I’m definitely nervous because I had 13 weeks of training from registration to race date for the Vancouver half, and only half that for Round the Bays, but I’m feeling confident and ready to run.

Overall, I’m having an amazing time in Wellington and New Zealand so far, and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings (hopefully a job). I’ll keep you all up to date!

7 things I learned from running my first half-marathon

For about a year, I’ve been talking about running a half-marathon. I thought about starting with a 5k or another shorter race since the last competitive running I did was in middle school, but a half felt like so much more of an accomplishment, and I prefer longer distances anyway.

After telling myself several times that I would begin training and then letting all my plans fall by the wayside when I got busy or hungover, I figured that once I actually shelled out for a registration fee I might feel more motivated, so I signed up for the BMO Vancouver Half-Marathon. On Sunday, after approximately three months and 200 miles of training, I ran 13.1 miles/21.1 kilometres in 2:08:12. Here’s what I learned:

  1. It’s easier than you think…

I started training with the belief I could finish a half-marathon with no training. I obviously wanted to do better than just “finish,” but without race experience I had no estimate for how fast I could go. A few weeks ago I ran the full 13.1 miles in 2:24:38, so my goal was to at least beat that time, and to do so I knew I would have to average 11:01 per mile or less. Well, I ran the first mile (always the hardest for me) in 10:20, and I figured if I could stay around that pace I’d be in good shape… then I ran mile 2 in 8:24. I was flying (it helped that the first few miles of the course were downhill), and it felt amazing. I only ran four miles out of the rest of the 11 in more than 10 minutes, and averaged a full minute and 26 seconds per mile faster than my first attempt.

All photos by Steven Mac Sweeney
All photos by Steven Mac Sweeney

Continue reading “7 things I learned from running my first half-marathon”