Over a decade ago I was inspired by a revered and popular public figure who ran their first marathon sometime after turning 40. I said, "I'd like to do that one day - run a marathon - sometime in my 40's". Fast forward to November 3rd, 2010, and within minutes of the clock striking midnight, I cried myself to sleep. I had turned 40. My tears were not due to the actual number, but over the fact that my life didn't look like what I thought it would at this age. I was childless despite every effort not to be, and behind closed doors I was hopeless and lifeless. I had many broken dreams and a broken spirit to match.

A month after turning 40 I remembered my words all those years ago and asked my health care practitioner whether I'd be physically able to run a marathon (especially being 20kg / 45 pounds overweight), and if so - how long would I need to prepare. He replied, "12 months". I asked, "Would 11 be okay?" He nodded. That night I registered for the New York City Marathon and the next morning, I started my training program (which was written for me by an expert in aerobic endurance training). To ensure nothing stopped me from realising my dream (like luck in the lottery selection process), I registered with a charity and have a guaranteed place. I now have 9 months to go before I head to New York and realise my dream - running the marathon, three days after my 41st birthday.

This is my journey...

Sunday, 29 January 2012

I did it.

It's been over 2 and a half months since this photo was taken and (uncannily) 9-months since my last post. I have been wanting to say so much, and yet have said so little.

Embarking on my journey towards the New York marathon was the best thing I have ever done for myself. It was like a giant mirror reflecting on patterns of my life. Obstacles that get in the way. Stories I tell myself to feel better and justify failure. And I was about to re-write a very well versed script...

I retreated into my shell and with each day absent from my beloved blog - the harder it was to write. So many demons reared their ugly heads and in September last year - I had hit an all time low. I was injured. Unable to train. STILL overweight. Full of self loathing and quite simply, felt like the biggest loser of all time - and not the "win $250,000 for losing weight" kind of loser.

Long story short - I altered my script and overcame a number of emotional and financial obstacles to get myself to New York, not knowing whether I was physically capable of even walking the marathon. My biggest breakthrough was to start something that I did not know whether I could finish. I've always had safe bets on myself so this in itself was BIG.

My first goal was to start. When I heard about the coveted finisher medals, I quickly established my second goal - to finish. In the plethora of information I remember reading that the marathon 'ended' at 7pm. So I had just over 8 hours to complete the course. This became my third goal.

When the gun went off, I started walking over the famous Staton Island bridge that appears on all the NYC marathon promo photos. I thought to myself "I am here. I am doing it. This is it. This is the New York City marathon... I have to AT LEAST run one mile." So I did. I continued to alternate walk one, run one (mile) till the 16-mile marker (25km), then ended up running the last 10+ miles (16.4km) to the finish line.

At the end of the day, I ended up running over 18 and a half miles (30km) over the course of the marathon. A total distance of 26.2 miles (42.16km) in my official time of 6 hours, 48 minutes and 59 seconds. Despite my knee hurting the entire distance, I learned to run like a fairy and just keep going. I was completely beside myself with what I had done - I more than exceeded my expectations.

Since returning home, I have spent time organising my life, clearing clutter and defining my direction in life. I still have my ups and downs but there is a quiet confidence in me. I have a lot to process and I am just allowing myself to move through it and look forward to emerging on the other side with a new challenge in sight.

So in case you were wondering... yes, I did it.

Until we meet again (don't know where, don't know when) ... keep your dreams alive by kicking goals and in between - give yourself permission to tie up loose ends, go through old boxes and put yourself back on course.

Grace xx
New York City Marathoner

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Vlogging on YouTube


Just letting you know that I'm flat out at the moment - juggling a gazillion things before we depart for Europe.

I've found vlogging (short for Video-logging) to be so much faster to keep in touch than typing.

So if you want to see what I've been up to, grab yourself a cuppa and click the link to my YouTube channel.

Until next time, why not experiment and find new and fun ways to be efficient with your time.

Grace xx

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Beyond the 7 year itch

8 Years ago today, Patrick and I married in Launceston, Tasmania. We chose this spot as that is where the proposal had taken place only five months earlier. It was the day before my 32nd birthday when Patrick suggested we take a ride over the Cataract Gorge Basin on a chair lift that boasts the world's longest single span.

I wholeheartedly agreed and whilst we were suspended high over the stunning gorge, Patrick popped the question. Time stood still, as too did the chair lift. I accepted Patrick's proposal and by pure coincidence (some might argue cosmic planning), the chair lift started again.

Having friends and families spanning over two states, it was evident that one side had to travel. In the spirit of fairness and romance, Patrick and I decided that we would return to this site to marry - and requested that both sides travel.

We had always dreamed of a small wedding, however had it been on the mainland - that would never have been possible. Asking people to travel a distance made it easy for those who would have only attended out of obligation, to decline. As it turned out, we had an intimate gathering to share our day. It was perfect.

It rained and rained on the morning of our wedding. Everyone seemed disturbed about it except me. "It's only rain... it's not like it's raining beetroot juice or fire balls - it's not going to stain or hurt us." My hair and make up artist said that I was the calmest bride she'd ever seen. But I learned something that day that I would never have 'got' had it been a bright and sunny day.

The only thing I wanted out of the 12th April 2003, was to marry Patrick. Nothing else mattered. Not even the weather. As it turned out, the boys raided every single army disposal in Launceston and purchased plastic blue ponchos for our guests. My brother Lou suggested that a clear poncho was more fitting for a bride (thanks Weej).

Our gift to our guests was a ride over the chair lift with a little handmade booklet explaining the proposal and why we wanted to return and share the magic. Apparently it was a sight to witness a sea of blue ponchos riding the chair lift, which was all but abandoned by tourists due to the drizzly conditions.

By the time I had arrived to the chair lift to collect my bridal poncho, the rain had ceased and did not resume for the rest of the day. After the ceremony, we walked with our guests along the gorge towards a beautiful rainbow that arched over the city of Launceston. We arrested at Stillwater Mill, where the celebration continued till late in the evening. It was a perfectly imperfect day.

So here we are, 8 years later. We have survived the 7 year itch (which was scratchy at times) and I ponder over all the things that make us thrive.

In short, the key to it all is teamwork. When we're kicking goals, we celebrate. When one is injured, the other steps in and takes on the extra load. When one is down the other becomes a coach. We share visions, dreams and goals. We are heading in the same direction even though we both play our own roles. There is respect for each other's strengths, and we step in to aid each other's weaknesses. We really are a great team.

To my best ever team mate - Happy 8th Anniversary. Let's keep kicking goals!

Love Grace xx

Monday, 11 April 2011

All wired up

Right now I'm feeling like Jaime Sommers, aka the Bionic Woman. Not for my ability to outrun a train or jump over a moving truck - but rather because I'm all wired up to a monitoring device.

Since embarking on my journey to New York, I've been required to monitor a number of things regularly to track my progress - or regress. One thing I am to check every 3-weeks is my resting pulse.

The last reading I did was 36bpm (beats per minute) as I lay in bed before rising. I was delighted at this figure, thinking that I was a sports legend in the making. With a resting heart rate similar to Lance Armstrong and Bjorn Borg, I was feeling pretty special. My health care practitioner on the other hand, was not so enthused.

In response to this reading, I was instructed to take my basal temperature daily to see if there was something causing this low heart rate. This revealed further low numbers - a sequence of sub 36C (96.5F) body temperature readings.

Hmm... Thyroid? That could explain my painfully slow rate of fat loss.

Blood tests revealed normal thyroid function without actually testing T3 or T4.

Back to the drawing board? Or do I ask for further testing? I digress.

In the meantime, I decided to redeem a Pilates prize pack I'd won pre-Christmas. The gorgeous Erica of South Melbourne's Genki Pilates welcomed me into her studio and ran a number of routine tests for a first timer. As a former paramedic, she picked up that I had an unusually abnormal heart rhythm and gently encouraged me to get myself checked out to ensure my road to New York is a safe journey.

Long story short, I am now in the process of being tested. Today I am wearing this contraption that is monitoring my heart rate over the next 24 hours. I have no idea how I'm going to manage sleeping without strangling myself. Then next week I'm having an ultrasound of my heart, as well as an ECG while I exercise on a treadmill (then I'll REALLY feel like Jaime Sommers).

I urge you not to worry. There's no point allowing negative thoughts to enter our heads prematurely. All this testing could reveal that I have a perfectly harmless abnormality that is normal for me. A bit like my sense of humour. Should the tests reveal something otherwise, we'll cross that bridge if and when we get there.

Until next time, don't let fear of the unknown put you off investigating things that may appear to be 'abnormal'. Knowledge, no matter whether it is positive or negative, will empower you to make informed decisions and take corrective action.

Grace xx

PS. A special heartfelt thank you to the beautiful Honni for giving me clear instructions on what steps to take. You demystified a potentially scary subject and gave me courage to take action. You are an angel and I adore you xxoo

Thursday, 7 April 2011

A trip down memory lane...

It's 5:30am and after tossing and turning for the last half hour, I decided to get up and write this post. Perhaps getting things out of my mind and onto virtual paper will be enough to lull me back to sleep. One can hope.

Aside from breaking in my Five Fingers and hosting an international guest this last week, I have also been preparing for a garage sale. The act of going through piles of stuff and determining whether or not I am ready to let it go has always been a challenging task for me.

It's not the 'stuff' that I am attached to, it's the memories that stuff brings. It always amazes me how memories can be locked away for decades, then the smallest piece of fabric or grandparent's salt and pepper shakers can conjure up a moment in time that until that point, you'd completely forgotten about.

Perhaps I fear that if I eliminate all the stuff from my past life, I will also eliminate my nostalgic memories. Then I wonder, is that a bad thing?

Does our personal hard drive, AKA brain, have limited storage capacity? Will we suffer down the track if we clutter our minds with insignificant memories? Perhaps we ought to be selective as to what memories are worth holding onto - just like our 'stuff' - and only keep the important ones like your wedding day, favourite travel destinations and the birth of your offspring (should that apply).

Some may argue that there's no room in the present for memories. The present is all we have. Memories live in the past and the road to enlightenment is to let all of that go. But if that were so, why were we not born with the memory of a goldfish? (which I still question - how on earth does anyone determine the memory capacity of a goldfish?).

I would argue that while the present is were we are, it is not all that we have. Memories give us context and builds dimension to our characters. If the question is "What memories do we hold on to?"my answer would be "The ones that bring us comfort and joy". Though I discourage myself to dwell in memories of the past, I do enjoy indulging in nostalgic moments now and then.

Yesterday was a day of such indulgence.

After seeing my tax accountant I decided to take a drive down memory lane en route to visiting my aunt. I cruised along the street that gave me my porn star surname (in case you don't know, the name of your first pet gives you your first name and the name of the first street you lived in gives you your surname. Pleased to meet you, my name is Tweety Larlac).

I paused in front of the house in which I spent the first four years of my life. I was completely in the present moment while simultaneously being transported to joyful feelings of the past. To me, it was emotional time travel that was comforting and uplifting.

Dawn has painted the sky with her rosy fingers and I feel calmer now. Thank you for being someone I can turn to at 5:30 in the morning to talk about memories. Tomorrow's garage sale has a lot of my late grandparent's stuff and saying good bye to it is obviously having an impact on me. That's okay, I'm sure it's all part of the process of letting go. Now if only my fat cells can do the same with their excess contents and I'd really be on the road to enLIGHTenment.

Until next time, take time to embark on your own emotional garage sale. Throw out the crap memories and only hold onto the ones that are really worth something.

Grace xx

PS. Here are some other pics from my trip down memory lane...

Friday, 1 April 2011

Weird things are afoot

Today I'm to tell you where I am going - but before I divulge that information, I must tell you that I'll be making my way there in my brand new Vibrams.

These 5-toed shoes (though branded as 5 Fingers) are without a doubt the weirdest looking footwear ever to adorn my feet. They are strangely comfortable and I somehow feel connected to mother earth, which is something that has taken me by pleasant surprise. They are the closest things to simulate being barefoot, only there's the bonus protection from broken glass, baking hot asphalt and slippery surfaces.

Over the last few months I've been hearing and reading so much about the benefits of getting about barefoot - our most natural state. My program instructs me to remove my running shoes at the end of my session and lightly run barefoot during my cool down, which I did until the mornings got too cold. My Vibrams will offer me the same benefits of barefoot running, only with a little more comfort and protection.


Should the relationship between my feet and my Vibrams flourish, I plan to run in them full time. At this stage I am uncertain whether or not I'll do the marathon in them - let's just take one step at a time. Literally.

So where do I plan to wear these new oddballs? Well in less than 4 weeks time, I'll be wearing them in Dubai. Then a few days after that I'll be wearing them in Italy, soon followed by France then Switzerland and back to France again. Who knows after that.

You might be thinking that I'm going on a whirlwind holiday - but alas you would be incorrect. I am actually going over to Europe for four months to WORK!

Yes, work.

Patrick and I have a tough job ahead. We're hosting several cycling tours that will be taking in the Giro d'Italia, les PassPortes du Soleil and le Tour de France. While that sounds all exciting, I won't lie - it is. However it does mean an incredible amount of work between now and then.

So the next few weeks will be a vision of me and my Vibrams running around literally and metaphorically as I prepare for our departure. Oh how very exciting.

Until next we virtually meet, do something happy for your feet.

Grace xx

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Where have I been?

It's been a while since my fingers danced over this keyboard. I miss it. I have been so busy since Operation Pat that blogging became a luxury I could not afford.

I've been on a roller coaster ride this last month - too many ups downs twists and turns to tell all. Let's just say that I hit a stumbling block, fell over, licked my wounds and am on my way up again.

This journey has revealed so much. I'm not just talking about the emotional and mental journey - I was expecting that - it's been the physiological revelations that have been surprising, interesting and challenging.

Oh blow it, I will tell... maybe not all, just a snippet or three (dinner can wait).

Weeks 7 - 9 of my training marked my peak. I felt great. I had progressed from a shuffle to a run. I felt that I could go on for miles and miles, hours and hours. I was unstoppable. My MAF (Measure of Aerobic Fitness) test at the end of week 9 was my best ever - smashing my previous time by 7 and a half minutes. I felt like a super heroine that wore stars on her bra (or was it her undies?).

Then week 10, things turned around.

My long sessions had gone from spending 20 minutes in my AHRZ (Aerobic Heart Rate Zone) twice a week to 30 minutes four times a week. Previously my post-MAF test program adjustments had only ever seen 5-minute increases, and my 'long sessions' remained at two per week - that meant that with each program alteration, I had plenty of recovery time between long sessions to adapt to the increases in training time. The 10-minute jump and doubling the number of long sessions proved too much to bear.

*Please note that my training at this stage is based on time, not distance. It consists of 6 training days each week with a MAF test every 3 weeks. Each session has a minimum half hour component that does not vary. It is my 15-minute warm up and 15-minute cool down. This is not a token, but a critical component to the program. I must gradually raise and lower my heart rate. The variable element to the program is the time spent in my AHRZ (after warm up and before my cool down) and the frequency of my long sessions. This is the component that is altered in response to the results of the MAF test. It is a scientific method of building one's aerobic base whilst simultaneously minimising the chances of stress injuries. Very clever.

Weeks 10 - 12 was a period of physical struggle, which ultimately impacted me mentally and emotionally. My inability to recover between long sessions began to drain me, though this did not stop me from being faithful to my program. At the end of week 12, I did my MAF test - I had gone backwards by two and a half minutes.

What a blow.

I felt robbed.

Instead of being rewarded for pushing through the fatigue and being committed to my dream, I was penalised. The MAF test illustrated that I physically wasn't coping with the increase in training. Looking back it's plain to see that the increase was too much too soon. My body was trying to tell me something but I was too fixated with the program to listen. Perhaps I was afraid that I would slip back into being the lackadaisical person I once was.

The MAF test is a tool to track your progress and tweak your program accordingly. I used it as a weapon to beat myself up. As soon as I finished the test, I felt the bubble burst. I was angry, deflated, worried and disillusioned. I began to loose faith - in me, my program and my ability to restore myself physically, mentally and emotionally in time for November.

The day after my MAF test, Patrick had emergency back surgery. I had to put my woes aside to focus on him. The to-ing and fro-ing to the hospital, and the overnighter when Pat ran a high fever, had all but drained every ounce of energy I had left. I was exhausted.

Noticing my grey pallor, Patrick suggested we both recover by the seaside at my friend's beach house (merci ma belle amie xx). I found myself napping 2-3 hours a day (I'm not a 'napper' so that's INSANE for me) before heading out for my run - which sadly had returned to a shuffle. I dropped my training days from six days a week to three and on a good week, four. I was at my wits end.

Then slowly slowly, day by day, I began to feel better. Not great, but better.

I've kept up my training, though have cut back on the intensity and number of long sessions. I'm distinguishing the fine line between listening to my body and keeping up the running habit. I am continuing with my Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture as well as getting a number of diagnostic tests done to see if there are any vitamin or mineral deficiencies that may have contributed to my fatigue. In a nutshell, I'm leaving no stone left unturned.

I have learnt that recovery is as important as the actual training. I know I've said it, but this experience has really driven the message home. Oh, and the MAF test is not a tool to beat yourself up with, but a measure to see how you're responding to the training and make necessary program adjustments.

So now you know where I've been... tomorrow I'll tell you where I'm going ;-)

Until then, know that there are times when you thrive and times when you survive. Do whatever it takes to survive so that in time you can get back to thriving - it's the best state to be in.

Grace xx