Saturday, 7 November 2015

{Small Steps Everyday}: 12k Traverse Auckland Marathon

Anticipated for months and we finally did it! I was extremely nervous about the run, going to bed early the night before and waking up early for a shower to freshen up, then to stuff my face with high energy food in preparation. During my practice runs/jogs/walks, I'd experienced dizziness from lack of sugar so I wanted to make sure that I had sufficient fuel to power me through the course. 

The weather that morning was perfect - fine, with no rain, there were clouds to shield us from harsh UV rays. We got to town at around 8. The roads were closed and we could see runners from the full marathon passing through on Quay Street - such athletes! They'd run about 30k in two hours! There were also sounds of cars tooting and people cheering around which heightened the atmosphere. The All Blacks had just won our second consecutive Rugby World Cup, defeating the Wallabies with an impressive score of 34-17! 

We got onto the bus which shipped us to the starting line at Smales Farm, on the way passing by hundreds more runners fighting their battles. My nerves heightened as I pictured myself as one of them in about an hour's time. Near the starting line, hundreds of people gathered in track pants, colour coded T-shirts with number bibs, stretching and warming up. The lines to the Portaloos snaked through the crowd, everyone was orderly and patient.  Some were sharing stories of their own runs and motivating each other. 

At about ten to nine, we walked to the starting line. The buzz vibrated through our bodies as the commentator started counting down the time. I plugged my earphones in and let the beat of Geronimo charge through me. Finally, the buzzer went off but we were delayed as we had to wait for the crowd in front of us to move. And then, off we went! 

I started off walking, thinking I should conserve my energy. But as more and more people started overtaking me and I saw that my sisters were running further and further ahead, I looked to Peter and thought, ok let's start running too. I adjusted my pace to a comfortable jog, centering my focus on each step rather than on the long journey ahead. I emptied my mind of any negative thoughts and filled it with "I can do it, I can do it, I can do it". As I ran, I reminded myself that this journey was my own. It did not matter that seven hundred people were ahead of me. I was not competing with anyone else but myself. 

The first 3k was comfortable. I realized that this was going to be more of a mental than a physical game. Clearing my mind of distracting thoughts actually helped conserve energy. My breathing was regular, I did not try to overtake people deliberately but let my pace guide me. In the corner of my eye I noticed Peter with the GoPro circling through, getting shots of my sisters and I while we ran. How he had so much excess energy was just beyond me. I was glad that he was enjoying the run though. 

As the Harbour Bridge came into sight, I let that be my mental target. So focused on my mental game, I didn't even realise that I passed Suzy until Peter pointed her out. We waved and gave hand signals of cheering each other on and "you can do it!" As we approached the bridge, the trajectory came to a gentle slope upwards. Still manageable, I thought, and kept pushing myself forwards. I started thinking about the wonders of the mind and the human body. How do my legs know to run? How does my brain control my legs to move forwards? How does my body know to push forward even if my mind tentatively thinks "stop"? And how do my legs know to distinguish when my mind really really is thinking "stop"? It was so puzzling and I thought to myself, if I overthink about how I run I will stop running, so let my body just do it

   I'd passed the 6k mark. This was how far I normally run and oh my gosh there's still half the journey. My time seemed alright though. Well within the cut-off time of when we had to be on the Bridge. My legs started to feel foreign. They've been carrying me for about forty minutes. As we climbed the Bridge, I slowed down to take it all in. I switched to power walk mode and immediately felt my legs went jelly. It's alright. This is a mental game. My physical state does not matter. On the bridge, I thought - hey, this was the first time that we were on the bridge on foot! Let's enjoy this moment and take some photos to commemorate. The view was amazing. Auckland was beautiful. Let's do some silly jump photos while trying not to get in the way of other runners. Suzy caught up and joined in.

Then came the downhill of the Bridge - yess!! Let's take advantage of it. So we plugged in our earphones again and began the second half of the journey. Comparatively, as expected, the second half was a lot more challenging than the first half. My running mentality was also different from the first 6ks. With each step, we were closer to the finish line, but there was still quite a distance to go. I thought that if there weren't so many people around me running, I would have stopped already. But seeing other participants pushing themselves helped motivated me. The fact that my sister was no where in sight also pushed me forward. 

My left knee started hurting and I could feel my lips going dry. When we ran down the bridge and started coming into town, my brain started chanting "each step by step counts", something a friend had said to me a few days ago. We saw people on the sideline cheering and Barfoot and Thompson was handing out lollies. "Home run", a sign says, haha so punny. But 10m later the 9k mark came into sight. Home run? You're joking! There's 3 more ks! There were more and more walkers around and I could feel the mental pull to join them. But each step by step counts! Step by step... step by step... My knee doesn't hurt. No it doesn't. Ah but it does. Slow down, rest a bit. No. No. No. Victoria Park is right there.  I could see it. 

As we came to Wynyard Quarter, I realised that the route was snaking leftwards into Wynyard Quarter rather than rightwards to Vic Park. Ah they tricked us! We've still got 2ks to go and we'll be running around the fish market and Wynyard, not straight to Vic! Ok, never mind, keep going. Jog. Small steps. Yup that's right. Oh water, go grab a cup. Take a sip. Don't drink too much or it'll cool your body down too much. One sip is good. Ok, keep going. I'd asked Peter to run ahead as he wanted to meet his time to try and win the Timex watch. My target time of 1.5h had completely gone out the window. I just wanted finish the course. 

The final 2ks was completed with a mixture of jog and power walk. I could see that many runners around me were doing the same thing. During the final 1k, I started having a secret competition with the girl next to me as a way to push myself forward. Jog walk jog walk jog. Ok she's stopped jogging, overtake her. Puff puff puff. See, you're slowing down, she's overtaken you, start jogging. I had a feeling she was using me as a short distance marker as well. 

And then we turned the corner and a straight line to the finish line stretched out in front of us. I did not expect the size of the crowd at all. Wow, so this was how running a marathon is like. The crowd's watching and cheering, no stopping now. I pushed myself through all the words - tired, pain, thirsty, stop, rest - that'd held me back in the last ten minutes and gathered all my remaining strength to run to forward. I can see the finish line. 1:36:20. 1:36:21. 1:36:22. Go, go, go, go, go!!! 

And somehow, I made it! We made it! Wow! We ran. We did it. We finished it! We didn't have to be driven across the bridge because we didn't pass the cut off time in time. My legs. I can't feel them. My knees, they hurt, but it does not matter. We made it! 

It's been one heck of a week. I ran (I ran) in a marathon. I worked extra to cover a colleague's parental leave. It was my mum's birthday. I had two last minute cake orders. There was a tear-jerking karaoke session. I watched an unexpectedly moving movie with my sisters. There were interviews. The assignments are racking up. Exams are looming. To say the least, it's been a physically and mentally challenging and emotionally provoking week. Even though I only ran the 12k Traverse, I felt like I had run the full marathon. I'm glad that we challenged ourselves. Once again we have proven that mind power is stronger than anything else. 

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Market hop: Matakana Market

July 25th, 2015. I woke up early. I had turned 25 the day before. Quarter of a century old. A milestone. The year went by so quickly. I still remembered how I celebrated my 24th the year before. It was a cold day.  A long day teaching and working in the lab. A day that ended with a massive portion of waffles and frozen yoghurt, then home to chow down more longevity noodles and cake. It was an emotional day remembering the ones that used to feature in my life and were now just a cameo.  

This year though, the occasion was a lot sunnier. I woke up early, but lay in bed. The skies were clear on this winter's day. At 8.30am, the door bell rang, way earlier than I'd anticipated. I was still in my pyjamas! I'm not ready yet. "It's ok, take your time. We're not in a rush." I scrambled out of my bed and into the bathroom and had a quick shower. I was planning to wash my hair but looked like that luxury was to be left for another day. As per usual, my mind listed the things that I wanted to get done that day. Stop off at the Britomart market, pick up some free-range eggs, drop Sarah off, go for a run, get some study done, maybe go shopping? With all these in mind, I didn't know how to dress. I decided that I'll dress in my jeans and super colourful jumper. I can run in jeans right? Then wrap myself up in my puffy black Kathmandu down jacket. Not like I was going to see anyone else. 

Came down stairs at about 8.50 and said hi to Peter and Sarah. I was still slightly furious at Peter for coming way too early so I couldn't get ready properly. He'd said 9/9.30am. Oh well. Let's make the most of the day then. After saying goodbye to the parents and brother we walked out the door. Peter had his arms around me and started stirring me to one side of the path and just as I was about to ask him what he was doing, "BAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!" out jumped five other familiar faces and scared the living heck out of me. What the...?! Why are you here? "HAPPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!" What? I thought you were at work... I thought Sarah was going to... What??!! Hahaha. That was one of the most genuine surprises I'd had in a while. The last one was my twenty second birthday. 

It turned out that a day of market, running, studying and shopping was completely scratched. Wearing a face full of sleep and lack of make up, my friends stirred me around for an extremely full-on day of market (Matakana), fed me delicious vegetarian pie, drove me all the way across town to Botany Paradice where I managed to hold my balance on the blades and inch across the ice, shipped me across town again for some vegetarian Thai meal, walked into a room where we had to solve clues and puzzles to escape from, then sat me down in a house where we played a bunch of board games. It was an eventful day to say the least. An unexpected surprise. 

Amidst the surprise, I managed to think quick and run back into the house to grab my camera. How long has it been since I played with it? Too long. The weather was perfect. The lighting was beautiful. The scenery and atmosphere was hyped and colourful. It was a great way to rekindle my photography flames again. I'm so grateful for the amazing friends I have. I'm so grateful for living in a beautiful country like New Zealand. I'm grateful for the great sense of adventure that us kiwis have. I'm grateful for the content that we feel just basking in the sun, sipping in the vibrant sights and smells and enjoying the company of each other. 

Saturday, 24 October 2015

{Small Steps Everyday}: Milestone 23/10/2015

Many people have spoken about it, but one never really fully understand unless they have experienced skin issues. This rings true especially if you're an adult as acne is usually associated with teenagers with raging hormones. But for me, I only really started having skin problems in my twenties. Before that, my skin was as shiny as a baby's bottom. While I was lucky enough to never have had a full face break out, the persistence of the problem was still a massive blow to the self-esteem. It was especially bad last year, with the stress of my master's degree, the poor sleeping and eating habits and the endless days stuck in the lab.

After I completed my studies, I gave myself a year's time to improve my health and hopefully along with it my skin problems. In the last few months, I have adjusted my eating habits and my sleeping habits. I cut out all cold food (as our bodies operate at an optimum temperature of about 37C, eating cold food or drinks stresses it out, decreases its ability to circulate blood and qi properly, lowers the immune system and thus the ability to fight off pathogens and eliminate toxins). I cut out bread (not easy!), which according to TCM is bad for digestion, especially for someone who has weak spleen and poor digestion. I started sleeping early, going to bed at 11pm the latest if I can help it. I started exercising. And I got into the routine of chanting and when I have time, meditating.

All these changes to my lifestyle took an enormous amount of willpower. But as with anything, the hardest part was the first step. Having my "Smalls Steps Everyday" list written down really kickstarted this whole lifestyle change. And although I don't refer to it often, I'm slowly doing more of the things on the list, and the effect on my physical and mental health has been awesome!

My stamina has improved greatly. Although I still can't run super long stretches, I can at least run now haha. Still think I'm gonna end up crawling on the 12 km Traverse happening next Sunday!!!! But I'm happy that at least I won't be crawling the whole way! And I think one of the best things about starting this exercise routine is that I'm feeling less self-conscious about my physique. I'm accepting the way my body is supposed to look and prioritising my health over my weight. I also realised that another benefit of running is that it trained my persistence and tolerance. Run a bit further. One more tree. Another one. Past that corner. That intersection. Run through the pain. Enjoy the pain.

Although I've cut out certain foods from my diet, ironically, in other ways, I feel more liberated. I used to be really strict on myself regarding what I can eat - no junk food, nothing deep fried or too fatty, no refined foods, no snacks. But I'm a lot more relaxed about it now and allow myself to eat what my body feels like. They say if you're craving a particular type of food it means your body needs it, right? I feel a lot happier now that I have made that change of mindset. After all, it's not like I'm eating truckloads of chips in one go, although I bought some Rice Thins the other day and I just could not stop eating it.

I feel my skin has improved recently. Although I have to remind myself to be patient as it often goes through cycles of clear, clear, omigosh clear! And then not again.... I'm also telling myself not to be affected by it if it does come back. It shouldn't dictate how I feel or think. Just let it be and it will let me be. But the honey and lemon face mask really helps! And it's super cheap. All you need is a few drops of lemon juice and not even a quarter teaspoon of honey and slather that on your face. It feels sticky and the lemon gives a sharp tingly sensation, but I'm not bothered by it.

Six months after the first submission, I finally received my grades for my masters thesis and will be graduating with first class honours in May next year!
And I'm so close to finishing my GCNZIA course, which is also super exciting. But now the issue of finding a supervisor and a job comes creeping up. No stress! Just try my best!

Friday, 21 August 2015

Market hop

1. Takapuna Pumphouse Market

2. Hobsonville Point Farmers Market

PS/ All photos were taken on my Note II.

Monday, 17 August 2015

{Small Steps Everyday}: Milestone 17.08.15

So last week I was definitely feeling the aftermath of the previous week's crazy storm. Every morning I woke up feeling like my eyes were swollen, like they still wanted to be sealed shut. But I made some progress!
Hailstorm in Auckland. An appropriate end to a stormy stormy week. 
Learning to say no
Work asked if I could help out an extra day last week as they were short on staff at the airport. I'd be working at the airport from 7am to 3pm, which meant waking up at 5.30 am and realistically, getting home at 5pm. I didn't feel like saying yes last week, but I felt really bad so I did. However on Monday I was feeling like I would keel over any minute so I asked if I could leave early (small effort in "saying no"?). And thank god I did because they told me they forgot to tell me that they didn't need me anymore. Imagine if I hadn't asked..

On the thesis front, I've made most of the amendments and sent it to my supervisor to be checked. I am praying that the changes I've made are fine. Funny how I was dreading looking through my thesis so much, but when I actually sat down and work on it, it wasn't that difficult after all (unless the supervisor isn't satisfied with the changes... then I'll stress out again). But I reckon I should take it easy. This is a project that's dominated by life for more than a year! It's finallyyyyy at it's final stages. The finishing line is in sight. I can't wait to cross it. But really, it's not a race. I should enjoy the last moments, wave around at all those that have supported me, take my time to complete it to a standard that I'm happy with. After it's done, this will be the version that I'll look back to in twenty years and feel proud about. This is the version that will sit in my supervisor's bookshelf. This is the version that will join one of the other theses in the University of Auckland library.

I was really behind on my studies last week. I'm no superwoman. I can't work on multiple things at once and be up to date with everything! But I spent Sunday catching up - as much as my urge to read my novel vibrated through my every pore, I managed to finish all assignments. But this week... looks like there are four new assignments to be completed.

As I didn't work on Tuesday, I went for a jog/power walk despite it being freeeeezing cold. My head and ears pounded so hard and felt so uncomfortable but I'm glad I overcame my will to just stay home. All was well after a long hot shower.
Then on Thursday, I had double work out sessions! Went for an hour long power walk/run during the day, and then on a whim my sister and I decided to join a Zumba class after dinner. It was so much fun. The atmosphere was so pumped, the instructor was so hyped. It's a small group and everyone seems really friendly. I think Zumba classes are going on our schedule from now on.
It seems weird, but I'm actually looking forward to my Tuesday and Thursday runs now. What they say is true - running is addictive. Perhaps I should slot another session in on Saturdays.

I can't remember the last time I baked for leisure. The baking that I've done in the last few months were either for an order or someone's birthday. But since last week I've been craving some soft, pillowy  bread. Last Wednesday, while at work I couldn't stand it anymore, so I went to buy some buns. But the taste was disappointing - after all, I've been spoilt by the luxury of homemade bread for years! So on Thursday morning I decided that no matter how busy I was, I was going to spend half an hour to make some bread. There's such a sense of calm watching the dough happily resting, then the exciting anticipation of seeing it transforming from an ugly little duckling to a beautiful swan in a few hours.

Weekend leisure
Too many months have gone by without me taking a break on weekends. If it wasn't helping out at the Chinese doctor's, it was assignments. I made a conscious decision to make sometime for myself to relax and rewind. After living like a mad workaholic I now understand the importance of breaks. So last Saturday, I went market hopping with the bf. We went to the Britomart market to get some free range eggs, then visited the Takapuna and Hobsonville markets. In all honesty, the size of markets themselves were a bit disappointing. You could count the number of stalls there were with both hands. It didn't help that the weather was shite and there was no big buzz around. But there were a few stalls that sold some quality products. I bought two beautiful postcards just because. And got treated to some luxurious chocolate from Sweet Cuisine. Hopefully the markets pick up when the weather improves! I'll share some photos in the next post.

Now lastly, I'm sharing this beautiful time lapse documenting the breathtaking city that Auckland is. So much dedication and hard work went into this little video. Hats off to the photographer, Siyamalan.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

{Small Steps Everyday}: Milestone

Any progress is progress.

Masters thesis
I found out that I won't be able to graduate this semester if I don't hand my final amended, printed and bound copy in by August 17, which is in... like ten days! That's verging on impossible with me juggling work and studies, and recently, family stuff. I was angry at first. When I handed in my thesis in March, uni said I'll get it back in May but instead it arrived at the end of July. IF they had handed it back to me earlier, I would've been able to finish it up and graduate! Inefficiency... sigh.
But I thought about it later on. It really doesn't matter when I graduate. Perhaps it's better graduating next year, when things at home have settled down. I'll just have to try my best but if it can't happen, no use sulking about it. This way, I can spend time looking through my thesis properly and not have to rush it. Work carefully and produce a perfect final copy!

I had my third test today. Was worrying so much about whether or not I can make it. All these unexpected things happening and taking up my time, I barely had time to sleep, let alone study. I even woke up at 5am for some cramming. But pssshht, I didn't have to worry! The test was pretty straightforward. This shows that spending time doing homework during the week really does pay off. Lucky I didn't leave everything to the last minute!
Lesson learned: Time is precious. Work hard when you have time because you never know what will pop up unexpectedly.

Does exercising my will to not fall asleep count? Ha...ha...
Ok ok I did go for a one-hour long power walk/jog down to the beach in my new shoes which I love love love! Admittedly I did try running, but breathing in the cold air makes me puff even more so I settled to a power walk instead. Small steps everyday. Don't push myself too hard and end up pulling my knee or something. But definitely should increase the amount of time I go for walks/jogs(wogs?).

As alluded to previously, sleep this week has not been good, particularly in the last two days. Definitely can feel the strain though. This makes it all the more important to sleep well normally, so when emergencies happen, I'll still have good health to fall back on. Look after that liver, woman!

Not exactly leisure, but it's a change in mindset. While I went for my walk/jog the other day I took the time to stop and admire the beauty around. Winter has such beautiful flowers! Like this one. I'm not sure what it's called but i find it so cute that it looks like it's wearing a fur coat. Although of course it's trying to get out of its fur coat. I feel like i should say something about don't judge a book by it's cover, you don't know what treasures are hidden inside, or unleash that inner beauty, or something along the lines of 'just when a caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly' but seriously my brain is suffering the consequences of sleeplessness. So there, I said all those things, rather un-poetically.

15. Appearance
I finally went for my haircut. I've been deliberating for the past two months whether or not to cut it and finally under the encouragement of my sister, I got it all chopped off! Well, not really all, but close. 
This was the first time I had my hair cut this short and I'm so happy with the results. The hairdresser at Hi Andy on High St really did an amazing job! Highly recommend going there for a cut/style/makeover. The prices are pretty reasonable too. 

I know a lot of people who are really scared of haircuts. But I find that if you feel doing something risky, haircut is a good choice because you won't die from it, even if you may feel like it - but just wear a hat, and after all your hair will grow back. 
Having my hair cut short, I feel so much more liberated - not just because I don't have to spend that much time and energy being frustrated by it. It's literally a weight off your shoulders. So if you've been feeling down lately, go for a haircut. You'll feel so much more refreshed, as I always do. 

This past weekend I have been touched by the kindness of friends and strangers, who extended their hands at my family's time of need. I feel so grateful and so blessed. And I feel that I should extend this kindness and pay it forward. I'm adding another thing to my list, and that is compassion. Make conscious effort of being compassionate in everything I do, no matter how trivial. The tiniest gestures really do make a world of difference. 

Now, off i go to bed. I shall leave you to admire these beautiful camellias that really brightened up the winter scene.