Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Moments Of Clarity

I had a moment out on my run yesterday. A moment of stunning clarity.

I will not be able to do this forever.

No, I'm not sick. Not injured. Not psychic. Just 53 and realistic. And I know realistically that something, someday will most likely happen and I will have to give up running before I die. Unless I die while I'm out on a run - which really doesn't seem like that bad a way to go.

It'll be a sad day when that happens. No more early morning alarms (hmm, maybe that bit's not so sad). No more taking in the morning as the sun comes up. No more feeling the freedom and joy of running fast. No more laughing until I pee myself just a little at something that someone's said (which really doesn't happen very often - honestly). No more post-run coffee. No more feeling the satisfaction of having worked out before most of the city is even awake.

But rather than dwell on what I'd be losing, I looked clearly at what I had. There. At that moment. Right in front of me. A magical crisp, clear morning. A flat mirror-like river that still looked pretty with the lights of the city reflected in it. The Story Bridge lit up like a rainbow.

Friends around me. Feeling strong. Running strong. Without any niggles or pains. An undeniable feeling of contentment. Of satisfaction. Of joy - probably endorphin related. 

So I took a mental picture to tuck away in my head with the other mental pictures of special moments. I'll bring it out and look at it when I can no longer do what I can do now (assuming that dementia hasn't hit) and try to remember the gratitude I felt on this day. Not focus on the loss but focus on how lucky I've been to find a passion that endured.

Yep, yesterday's run was one of the best.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

My Tip For A More Youthful Appearance

I freaked out some of my running friends last week.

Back story is that I've been kind of slack lately. I haven't been bothered with a few of the things that most women bother about. Personal grooming things. Hair cuts to be perfectly honest. It just seems like too much effort to try to fit it in when I've got other things occupying my brain space. So my hair is starting to get longer.

But longer, to a runner can be a bit annoying. For a while a cap was enough to keep it from bugging me on the run. But it grew past the length that even a cap could control and those long scraggly bits at the back of my neck were really starting to piss me off so I did something radical. I put it up in the littlest ponytail ever. 

Actually it's two ponytails because some of the top stuff is still too short to reach around the back of my unusually large head. It's not stylish or pretty but it's really practical and my hair is no longer pissing me off. And once my friends got used to it (took a full run and a whole coffee conversation) it was pronounced to make me look more youthful.

I was a bit dubious. Until I saw this clip from My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

A tight ponytail can have some advantages. Good-bye jowls and wrinkles.

Just have to work out the right amount of tightness to get the youthful appearance without the too-tight headache.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Ambivalent Racing - Mother's Day Classic '16

I know. I've been MIA for the past few weeks. I blame it on the public holidays and the facts that I can't blog when there's people hanging around and my computer is in the kitchen so there's always people hanging around. And it could be that there's nothing blog-worthy that's been happening in my life. Just running, working, sleeping and eating.

But then this weekend happened.

It started as all good weekends do. Meeting at 5 am for a nice 22k trot around the river. An entertaining 22k trot around the river due to the higher than average amount of public nudity on display. A few half naked blokes and a girl who'd decided that clothes are for losers and she is not a loser. Just as well it's been a very extended summer so their sensitive bits didn't shrivel up and drop off.

Saturday was also the day that I got to use the birthday voucher for a massage that I was given. Talk about being spoilt. It was the fanciest massage I've ever had. Such a beautiful day spa. And a very competent masseuse. The only downside to the whole thing was having to hold in a fart for the full hour. My boys still don't believe that I did it but I actually do have better control and decorum than they ever believed possible.

I'd registered for the Mother's Day Classic again this year and that was on Sunday. I kinda didn't really want to do it. I'd run Friday. I'd run Saturday. My Sunday was looking like it was going to be a big one and adding a race was only going to make it bigger. But I'd paid for it and I'm a bit of a tight-wad so I posted up something on Instagram to make me accountable and I set my alarm once again for an early morning.

I'd roped Iven in for job of chauffeur, bag-holder, photographer and post-race coffee companion. I only had to mention coffee and he was in - he's easily manipulated. He did a great job finding a good car park and walking me to the loos and the start line. I was still extremely ambivalent about running the event. But when you're dressed in your running clothes with a race bib on your chest standing on the start line you've really backed yourself into a corner. Of course I was going to run. And of course I was going to run hard. It's what I do in a race. It was going to be an interesting exercise in keeping it all together mentally when I wasn't altogether there mentally in the first place.

The Mother's Day Classic is an interesting event. Sooooo many non-runners do it and that means that there's sooooo many people who have no idea about race etiquette. Like not wheeling your pram up to the start line of the 8k run when you're there for the 4k walk. And not letting your entire family of four little kids stand in front of the elites. So little common sense on display. What hope is there for humanity?!!

We had to endure another really bad warm up session. Again - no common sense!!. Don't encourage us to all crowd together and then make us do windmills with our arms. That is not going to end well. And no choreographed sideways movements. We're runners - not dancers. Someone is going to go the wrong way.

And then finally we got to run. And because I'd snagged myself an awesome start position I could run freely from the start. Not always the best thing for a runner who has a very poor but optimistic ability to pace. I also didn't warm up. Part of my ambivalence. Not a smart move. By 500m I was in oxygen debt and I only hoped that it meant I was running fast-ish. First k - 4:32. Fast-ish. I'd earned my discomfort.

Kilometre 2 felt a little better. My body was getting over the initial shock of moving fast. That little lady who'd shot past me in the first k must have had an even worse ability to pace than me. Who'd have thought it was possible? I was reeling her in. Good for my ego cause she looked older than me. 4:36. Only 6k to go. Surely I can hold on for 6 more k??

Passed my nemesis in the third kilometre and then saw the boy with the bandaged thumb I'd been chatting to before the race. Wondered why his thumb was bandaged until I passed him and then he was forgotten. Wished I'd brought music to distract me from what was happening to my body. The beep of my watch once a kilometre wasn't cutting it. 4:40. Oops slowing down.

I know this route so well. We run it almost every week. Sometimes twice a week. I knew there was a rise coming up. Let's call it a hill to make me feel better. Keep pushing. Stupid hills! And we got to run just far enough that the turnaround was past the bottom of the hill and I was going to have to run it again. I remembered my mantra - we don't train so races won't hurt, we train so we can cope with the pain. Kinda wish that training meant that it wouldn't hurt. 4:45. I'm starting to see a trend here and it's not good. But hey, over half way. Less than 20 minutes more and then the hurt will stop.

Getting to the halfway point gave me a little lease on life. Picked it up for the next k and managed to nudge in under 4:40 again. 4:37. Three more k at that pace?? Maybe? Probably not!

From there it was a matter of encouraging myself to just run the kilometre I was in. And that was fine for the first 200m of each kilometre. Then I'd remember that a kilometre was quite a long way. And there were more little inclines and maybe I need to preserve some energy just to make it to the finish line. 4:50, 4:51.

Only 1k to go. Time to start trying to pick off runners ahead. But I wasn't the only one playing that game. I passed a couple of runners but more passed me. Que sera. Saw a few photographers and could barely raise a smile but I managed one for Iven who yelled at me from under a bridge - the man is part-troll.

My watch beeped the final kilometre just before I crossed the line. 4:43. Done!! Cumulative time - 38:02. Not so bad. Or at least I believed that until I saw last year's time which was almost a minute faster. Whatever - I don't think I could have run any harder. Maybe age is catching up with my times.

I found Iven at my meeting spot and we headed off for our coffee. Got the message that I'd placed first in my age group over my soy cap and raisin toast. Sometimes it's just about turning up - not speed.

Not sure if I'll run this one again. I might give it a break for a year or so and then see how I feel. Or I might have forgotten my ambivalence by next year. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Racing With Friends

I had a revelation on Saturday night.

I was reclining on the chaise watching the Broncos flog the Bulldogs and counting up votes for which outfit I was going to wear in the following day's race when I realised that I had zero anxiety about racing. No little flutters when I thought of the race. Nothing at all. Racing has become a non-event. I have finally got to a point in my life that something that I choose to do, pay to do, love to do, doesn't fill me with so much stress that I'm taking prescription drugs and spewing into the toilet.

Hallelujah! I'm slightly less crazy than I used to be.

I was actually excited about the event. Not the running part necessarily because running hard hurts and if I like pain that makes me a masochist and masochists are crazy so that would have me sliding back up the crazy scale. Running hard makes me feel satisfied. Like I've achieved something. Which I have. I've achieved ignoring the voice in my head that says to stop because it's hurting.

The excitement was because I was getting to do the event with a car full of friends. Yeah, road trip!

It was an early start on Sunday. 4am alarm. Trawling the streets of Bardon to find the right number in the right street then picking up a couple of dodgy looking characters over in Highgate Hill. We got to C-Bus Stadium in Robina in plenty of time, made use of the facilities and then just hung out until the races started. I used the facilities twice because (a) I needed to, (b) there was no queuing, (c) I am and over achiever and (d) three babies. I would do this race again and again because of the toilets. Plenty of them! Real toilets - not portaloos!!  

The half marathon started at 6:30 and we waved Jess off. Then Ian and I contemplated a warm-up and while we were contemplating heard the call for the 10k runners to line up. Oops. Decision made for us. There were less than 600 in the race so we were close to the start line. A little waiting and then we were off.


Or kind of off. There were a fair few runners ahead of me who'd done a pretty ordinary job of working out where they should be in the pack. Slow, slow runners up near the front. But I was feeling pretty Zen about the race so I decided it wasn't a bad thing to not run too fast in the first kilometre, like I sometimes have a tendency to do, so I didn't mentally taser any of them. 

The first kilometre ticked over and then the hill loomed in front of us. I remembered the hill from last year when I did the half marathon. It's short and sharp so it was just a matter of sucking it up and sucking the big ones in then enjoying the downhill on the other side. And once that was over with it was a fairly flattish run to the 5k turnaround. 

I can't say it's a terribly scenic course. Kind of a pity to have a race down at the Gold Coast and not see any of the beaches. But then we wouldn't get those awesome toilets at the start so I guess that's the trade-off. There was nothing to distract me from the pain of running hard except the thoughts in my head and the other runners. There was one runner in particular that I'd noticed at the beginning. Hard to miss because he would have been at least 6'5" in a red singlet. He'd been just ahead of me in the first couple of kilometres then had pulled away but once I'd passed the 6k mark I could see him up ahead of me. And I was starting to close the gap.

Kilometre 7 came and the gap was getting really small but I had this vivid memory flash from last year. My memory's pretty crap these days so to remember something so vividly means that it was pretty significant. There was big pain ahead. In the form of three longish (for me) inclines and then the climb to the traffic lights. I just wanted to slow down. To save myself for what lay ahead. But I've mentally given up in races before and I hate the regret afterwards so I told myself to suck it up and keep putting in the effort. The hills would slow me down a little but it's effort that counts. 

The first bump wasn't too bad. Then the second bump came and I managed that okay. The third one bit hard and I was hurting when I hit the top. Then there wasn't the normal downhill to recover. It was flat until I reached the last hill. But at this point there was only 2k to go and, miraculously I'd passed my giant in red so all I had to do now was stay ahead and see what I had left.

Soon we were running through the 1k race. It was like I'd gone from running with giants to running with dwarfs. Time to keep my wits about me. Little people have no idea about running in a straight line so I tried to keep a wide berth. I found it a bit inspiring to see these future runners giving it their all and I loved the wisdom of the mother who told her daughter that if her brain told her that she couldn't do it then she wouldn't be able to but if her brain told her she could do it she would. I made my brain use that message all the way back to the finish. 

And then it was over. I stopped my watch. 48:12. Not too bad considering the hills. The work was done. Now it was time to kick back and relax. Wait for Jess to finish her half. Enjoy that post race euphoria and wait for the results.

I'm still confused about the time difference between my watch and the official time. But whatever. 

Nice to get the age group win but honestly the best part of the whole day was the time spent with my posse. Support, encouragement and laughing till your cheeks hurt.

When can we do it again?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Just Walking The Dog

The weekend was looking full of possibility on Friday. #1 son was visiting his fiancée at the coast. #2 son was off to Singapore for a long weekend. Iven and I were going to have the house to ourselves. Bliss!

And then Iven came home from work. With the flu. Real flu. He's a man - so it's real man flu. Not just a cold that miraculously is called flu because he's a man.

This was serious. Not the flu part. He'll probably be sick for the best part of a week and then be fine. And the fact that he collapsed in the hall on the way back from a toilet visit was most likely due to his normal hypotension on top of the virus. Nothing to get too alarmed over - even though being woken from a dead sleep at 4:00am by your husband collapsing in the hall is a little alarming at the time.

The serious part was that all my weekend plans dematerialise in a blink of an eye and I was looking down the barrel of having to take on Iven's hardest chore. Walking that black and white devil disguised as a cute dog.

Iven takes all three of the wolf pack for a daily walk. Well, almost daily. Sometimes life gets in the way and it just doesn't happen. Two out of the three of them are beautiful on the leash. They just trot along obediently and occasionally pull you up when they find something interesting to sniff.

Not the hellhound. He must have heard me mention that Dalmatians were originally bred to be carriage dogs and thought I meant that they pulled the carriage rather than ran alongside it. He's been in training to pull carriages ever since. Ricky gets a leash on and once he's out of the gate he's a dog on a mission.

I decided that I couldn't possibly take all three dogs on Saturday so Bubbles would have to stay home. She's like 115 in dog years so a restful evening was probably a nice change. I had just under my own weight of dog-power on the lead and we were taking no prisoners. I have never walked up hills that fast. Down hills were even more terrifying. Down hills with a scrub turkey in the distance were an unimaginable horror that I had to face. Twice.

There was swearing. Lots of swearing. Boatloads of scurvy sailors' worth of swearing. Out of fear. And anger. I made it home in one piece and swore (with a lot of the words I'd been using on the walk) that I'd never take that #### $!@$ dog for another walk in his lifetime - which I was hoping would be very short.

But then this happened.

He looked so cute and adorable that I forgave him. And tried to work out a better way to walk him. That didn't involve a taser - because I don't have one.

So I came up with a plan. I would take Ricky for a little run. Alone. Surely I could manage 25 kilos of stupid on a leash?

And the answer to that question was probably. If there had been no other dog-walkers out at the same time as me. But there were a lot of dog walkers out at the same time as me so the honest answer is really no. Ricky can see another dog at 200 paces and, being the sociable beast that he is, he wants a meet and greet asap.

Again it was a terrifying flight of potential disaster. And I do mean flight because my feet hardly touched the ground. My internal dialogue was mostly every swear word that I knew and a few I made up to suit the occasion. I can't even promise that my internal dialogue stayed internal. A few of the expletives may have slipped out under moments of extreme duress. 

But again, I survived. Only to get home and have to repeat the process with the two patient pooches who'd been waiting at home for their turn. Another four and a half kilometres but this time at a much more pleasant pace.

Today I'm sore all over. I'd guessed that my shoulders would be sore but I'm pleasantly surprised that my core got a work out too. Maybe I could market Ricky as the perfect all-over body workout and hire him out as a personal trainer.

I'm hoping Iven recovers quickly. Really, really quickly. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Why Do I Do It?

Some days I wonder why I do it to myself.

This running thing that I'm so obsessed with. Some days I'm just not feeling the love. Some days I'm tired and cranky and just so 53.

Most 53 year old women lounge around in bed until their hot flash alarm system gets them up. And most 53 year old women don't pretend they're Paula Radcliffe or Kara Goucher (or their slower half-sisters) and run speed sessions that have me wanting to go to bed for the rest of the day - except that I can't go back to bed because there's that pesky little thing called work.

This was kind of how I was feeling on Saturday morning in the short 5 minutes that I had between waking up and knowing that I had to get up to get to the run on time. I was tired. It had been one of those nights. Where I toss and turn and can't fall asleep but then realise that I have fallen asleep probably half an hour before the alarm is supposed to go off. I'd been stupidly tired the day before. For no good reason that I could think of. I'm just thinking it's a little gift that menopause is bestowing on me.

But the thing was that there were only a couple of us running and I didn't want to deprive anyone of my scintillating conversational skills that are at their peak at 5:00am when I've hardly slept. So I pulled on my big girl panties made of the funky rainbow zebra fabric and tried not to think about the two and a half hours of running that I was going to do.

In my head I allowed myself to pull the pin at any stage where I just wasn't feeling it. I could turn around early. It could be a 10k-er for all I cared. I could surely do 10k. Or if I warmed into it I could just do the first 20k and then call it quits. Craig only had a 20k on his program so I could stop when he did. Jess wouldn't mind running the last 30 or so minutes by herself.

But something happened on the run. That fatigue that I'd been feeling the day before just seemed to slip away. We ran, we talked, we listened, we watched the sun rise, we saw other runners and cyclists and walkers doing what we were doing and I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Running along the river with my people. Enjoying the best part of the day.

Running isn't just running. It's not just about getting fit or losing weight. Running is experiencing life. Breathing in the freshest morning air. Seeing those little things that can surprise and delight. It's sharing laughs and dreams and those things that are hurting you inside but hurt less when you get to share them with people who have sweat and strived and gasped alongside you kilometre after kilometre.

I finished the entire run on Saturday. All two and half hours. And it was probably the best two and a half hours of the week. Closely followed by the hour and a half tempo running on Wednesday morning and the hour recovery run on Friday and that hour on Tuesday that we were running 1k reps at South Bank. Not necessarily in that order.

Yes, they were all runs but the thing that made them so good was the people. My tribe. So now I think about it, I am not doing it to myself - we are doing it together. We may each have different goals but we're there supporting each other. Helping each other achieve them.

That's why I get up out of bed when I'm tired and it's dark and my bed's warm. And that's why I'll be doing it for as long as I possibly can.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Shock, Horror, Shame!

I had a blinding moment of horror on Saturday.

The day had started okay. 4:15am alarm. Two and a half hour run that I really wasn't into at the beginning but got past and ended up enjoying. Coffee and toast with the crew. Some grocery shopping. A normal, run-of-the-mill, unspectacular kind of Saturday.

And then it happened. The horrific part. When we were driving back home.

I'd stiffened up after the two and a half hour run and all the sitting at breakfast and in the car and I just thought I'd do a little bit of stretching while Iven chauffeured me home. So I had a fighting chance of getting out of the car at the other end - let alone get up the stairs.

I lifted my left leg onto my right knee and something caught my eye. I think it was the angle of the light as the sun came through the windscreen. Because at home in the dingy light, I'd never seen what I saw. A very long - and by very long I'm talking about a good inch - hair on the back of my thigh.

I assumed it was one of the dogs and tried to brush it off. But it didn't budge. So I grabbed it and pulled. Ouch! Nope, definitely not one of the dog's.

And then I inspected a little further. It was not the only one!!! And I will never get a job as a contortionist because that closer inspection was really, really tricky.

I changed sides and sure enough this cosmetic disaster was not confined to just my left leg. Shock, horror, shame!

Iven assured me that he'd never seen any long black hairs on the back of my legs. But he thinks I don't have any wrinkles. Or flabby bits. That's the beauty of being married to someone who's a little older. Their eyesight fades just as time is wreaking havoc on your body.

I spent the rest of the trip home plucking out the offending hairs. And the damned things are just like spiders. If you don't get a good grip on them when you pull they just shrivel up into tight little Shirley Temple ringlets. Nowhere near as impressive as they were. Not that I'm wanting anyone to be impressed with the pelt on the back of my legs.

So I feel I must take this opportunity to apologise to anyone who may have caught sight of this offence against humanity. I've plucked out the worst of them now. And I'll try to keep on top of things. Every Saturday on the way home from getting the groceries when the light is at just the right angle. At least until it gets cooler and I can finally wear capris again.