1 year, a 1 year old, and the North Face 100!

Follow the journey of Bron Watson, former World Champion rower and new mum, as she goes about her goal of running in he North Face 50!

I don’t have a one year old, yet. But by the time the 2015 edition of the North Face 100 rolls around I will do.

At the conception of this blog I was standing at the finish line of the 2014 North Face 100 waiting for my friend, David Byrne, to cross the finish line of the 50km category. The temperature at the Katoomba start/finish line was fresh but the atmosphere was convivial. The brave (or crazy) participants were arriving at the finish in that undeniably addictive state that is a magical mixture of discomfort, elation, relief and satisfaction of completing an endurance event.

Regardless of their proximity to a podium spot, and although many were clearly in substantial physical discomfort, every competitor was wandering (albeit gingerly) around the finish with an obvious sense of fulfilment.  My little boy, born just 4 weeks earlier, was snuggled in my arms and blissfully unaware of the trickle of runners clambering up from the final grueling staircase of the course and through the finishing chute. As a former elite rower, keen cyclist and gym junkie (but more recently, a first time mum) I really appreciated their achievements – what a fantastic event, and how fantastic it must feel to complete it!

Like other retired elite sportspeople, I don’t think I’ll ever loose a deep seated need for the combination of lung burning mental challenge and intrinsic reward that comes from hard physical competition. Whether it’s against someone else, or against my own PB’s, 20 years of competitive sport have left an indelible mark. As there isn’t an athletes version of AA, I guess I will get to keep indulging my addiction! Hence, I have decided to commit to completing the 50km course of the North Face 100 in 2015. And the countdown has begun!

Lucerne World Cup race 2012Now I must make a disclaimer here. I am an Olympian and dual World Champion in my sport of choice – rowing, but I am an atrocious runner. I am fairly sure I make people feel uncomfortable when they see me jog/shlep/shuffle by. I think they look at me and wonder what it is I am trying to do.  There have been occasions when brisk walkers have actually overtaken me. I blame 20 years of rowing on my unique ineptitude to run with fluidity or any pace. However, running is accessible, I need an event to put a training program around (old motivational habits die hard) and, you can stick a little baby in a pram and train whilst parenting.

Unfortunately on my first little shuffle (I can’t, in good conscience call it running yet) I was moving in an unfamiliar body. My first thought was that I was somehow injured, but no, those wobbly bits are the result of 9 months of growing a baby. Oh, and maybe eating a few more squares of chocolate than really necessary. That’s when it dawned on me that the body that I could once push to the lactate inducing, VO2 maxing limits of elite rowing has undergone a very significant transformation (a different kind of lactation is going on these days), and it’s going to take a fair bit of panel beating to get it track ready again.

On the advice of some handy running folk I hold in high regard, I have been advised not to pencil in a target time for the NF100 just yet. The training regime will be simply to increase the time on my feet trotting along.   Around November I should then do a timed 15km trail run and make a time goal from there.  Apparently I will be doing a lot of walking in the actual event in any case. This is good news as I have been walking now over 35 years and I’m pretty sure I have got that skill covered.

So, the first (baby) steps towards running in the North Face is to shuffle for segments of my daily walk, ideally linking these into a continuous pram pushing flow that is not too Cliff Young-esque. For the gentlemen and young folk out there who have no idea bout pregnancy, the result is not only a baby (obvious) but also the relative decimation of your core, pelvic floor and gluteals. All of which come in handy when trying to run with any sort of efficiency, grace or comfort. So, getting my central supportive structures back in decent nick through pilates and some resistance training is also priority. In real terms, this means a commitment to doing daily pilates exercises reminiscent of a Jane Fonda work out, and hogging the cybex cable machine in the gym at least twice a week.

10371558_10152507400483060_3920381209119783157_nMeanwhile, out on the road I will be pushing my little bloke about the place in a pram (with him in the pram, not me). In the last 3 or so months since deciding upon this challenge, I have gone from walking with the pram, which was actually a challenge after having an emergency caesarean (it’s a very common medical procedure, but it is major abdominal surgery which results in a fair bit of discomfort just moving around) to shuffling and seeking some nice steep hills to ‘power push’ the pram up. I feel confident that on the occasions when I am able to get out for a shuffle sans-pram I will surely run like the veritable wind (for at least 147 meters at a time). I’ll report back again soon on whether or not that actually happens…

Bron Watson

Olympian, World Champion, Motivational Speaker, New Mum, Aspiring North Face finisher.