Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Give Away And My Challenge

It's the start of a new month already! I thought we'd just started a new year but apparently we're now well in to it.

And to celebrate the start of the shortest month of the year I've got a give away. I was contacted by Shervin from Personal Planner with an offer to give away one of their personalised planners to one of my followers. They also gave me one so I could let you know just how easy it was to create. I'm a diary tragic. I HAVE to have a hard copy diary so my life doesn't spiral out of control. I put everything in it - due dates for bills, appointments and birthdays. If I didn't have my diary no one would get cake!

Making the planner was so much fun. It was just a matter of going to the website and then working step by step through the choices and this is what I came up with. It's awesome!

The inside has a full week on the double page spread so I can see what I've got on at a glance and the spiral binding lets it open up flat. I was able to add a training box to put all my training stats for each day and then there was another area where I could put my totals for the week so I can congratulate myself over how amazing I am or have a pity party (by eating copious amounts of chocolate) if my training has been less than stellar. 

I could also put in a 'To Do' area where I can remind myself just who needs cakes that week. And there's an area for 'Ideas' so if I'm feeling flush with ideas for posts I can just jot them down. It's just the perfect diary for me and my forgetful, almost-50-so-there's-no-hope-for-improvement brain.

So if you too LOVE diaries and would like the opportunity to create the mother of all diaries you can enter my give away. All you have to do is 

1. Go to Personal Planner on Facebook and LIKE the page. Then ...
2. Let me know that you've done so in the Comment section here. And ...
3. Be a follower of My Life's a Marathon either here or on Facebook.

Easy!! The give away will run till Valentines Day when I choose the winner.


Now back to me. 

I've been on treatment now for eight weeks. And because I've been starting to feel incredibly NORMAL again (I'm not talking mentally because I don't know that I ever want to be totally normal there - slightly crazy is a lot more fun) I've been adding a few things in to my training schedule. 

One of the things that I lost over the last year or so has been strength and that's one of the things that I wanted to work on once I started getting energy back. I used to do a little bit of strength work - and I do emphasize the word 'little' - and I really missed being able to just drop and push out a very wobbly half dozen push ups whenever I wanted to. Impressed? Yes, I know - even at it's best my upper body strength was underwhelming.

One of my squad-mates put me onto an iPhone app - 100 Push Up Challenge so I did the test, huffed, puffed and moaned my way through 15 push ups and that was the start of this week's pain. The app MAKES me do push ups three times a week. And it MAKES me do more than I'd ever do if I had a choice. And it's given me a little abdominal strain because I'm not used to holding my body straight and rigid under pressure. And I still haven't deleted it off my phone. Why? Because I don't give up easily once I start something. And because I'm a masochist!! And soon I'll be a masochist with guns. Not Uzi-style guns - probably more like water pistols. But they still count as guns don't they?!

But the problem with doing push ups after not doing them for the best part of two years is the associated pain and inability to move my shoulder girdle through its normal range. And add to that very sticky weather and the need to wear singlets and you have an issue every single time you want to dress and undress. I wear singlets with a bra shelf as my pyjama top in summer and can I tell you I've almost needed to call the Fire Brigade to bring out the Jaws of Life to get me out of the tangle of sweat, flesh and Lycra  If Iven hadn't have been there to do a little unravelling I swear I'd have made the call. I wonder if they would have sent out the crew from the Fireman's Calendar. These guys look like they could handle any tricky rescue.

But I digress. 

I'm now up to 152 push ups for the week. Incredible, I know. Stunning! Awesome! Mind-blowing! But if the challenge is to get to 100 push ups, then surely I can stop now?!! They don't really mean for my tooth-pick, runner's arms to able to do 100 push ups in a day or anything stupid like that, do they?

I'm thinking I should have read the small print before I started this thing. It may not end well!!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Ghost Of Simbas Past

First up I want to state that I don't hate cyclists. Well, not all of them. Sometimes I hate the ones who blow past me at a 100k/hr on the bikepath and miss me by millimetres. My husband is a cyclist and I don't hate him despite some of my homicidal plans. I just sometimes like to 'have a go' because that's Australian Kulcha.

The truth is that while I can cycle, most of the time I'm too scared to do it on the roads or where there's other bikes within a ten metre radius or where there are small furry animals off their leashes. (I still have nightmares about a certain bike vs poodle incident) And I can't use gears. And I ride with my hands poised over my brakes. I just wonder how cyclists get their endorphins when the weather turns foul. If I don't get my hit, I'm the one who turns foul.

Anyway, on to other issues.

I woke up to an eerie, foggy street yesterday. There had been rain predicted but those winds had moved it south quicker than expected.

And within two kilometres of starting I got to see something that I hadn't seen for a few days. The sunrise was glorious through the clouds.

I ran my loop through the university to check out the damage but apart from a lot of leaf litter and branches, there really wasn't too much. The tree that had come down the day before had already been moved.

Not so the one in my local park. This might be there for a while until the council gets more important jobs done.

But having the sun come out after all that rain means only one thing - humidity. I've been feeling a little like I've been put in a steamer and left on the stove for way too long. And worst of all, my hair does not do humidity with any grace whatsoever.

I know that my be-curled sisters despise this weather because it makes their head look like a pom pom. But spare a thought (and a prayer) for me and my limp-haired compatriots. Humidity past 50% means that my hair is glued firmly to my scalp and no amount of product will give it any lift. Add to that the fact that I'm a good three weeks overdue for a hair cut and I'm seriously thinking of a ponytail - it would be all of 3 cm long and stick straight out but I swear it would be no worse than how it looks at the moment.

Having at least a week of bad hair days to look forward to is only the start of my woes. The city might run out of water. Our main treatment plant has become all silted up because of the flood waters and might take a couple of days to get back up to full operational capacity. We've been asked to keep water usage to essentials.

Minimal water plus hot, sticky weather is not a good mix. I'd like to suggest now that if you're planning on visiting Brisbane in the next 48 hours you might want to carry a nosegay. For all of you who weren't raised on a diet of Georgette Heyer, a nosegay is a little posy of fragrant flowers that you stick under your nose whenever a stinky person walks by. Back in merry old England way before deodorant and regular showers, this was a must. I'm thinking that we could start a new trend.

But again, the threat of imminent dehydration and a stinkfest to end all stinkfests is still only the tip of the iceberg.

The worst thing about this whole situation is what I want to refer to as "The Ghost of Simbas Past".

We have not always been a dog-only family. The chicken doesn't count in this story because it produces eggs and is therefore less of a pet and more of a supermarket on legs. Once, or twice (or really three times if I want to be brutally honest) we owned a cat.

Most people are either cat people or dog people. Some are both cat AND dog people - they're like the ambidextrous of the pet-loving fraternity.

When Iven and I had just married, we lived for a while in a unit where we couldn't own a pet. But all cat lovers know that you don't OWN a cat - they own you. And I was a newly-graduated vet who needed a pet for my very existence so I let a kitten adopt me.  But it was not a terribly happy relationship. I would feed Smudge and she would attack my ankles whenever I walked past her. I would clean up the litter tray and she would bring in rotting bits of road kill or cat kill. I would shower her with pats and affection and one day she tried to kill Iven and I in our sleep by turning on the gas stove.

Cat number two, Goober, was a much nicer feline. He actually liked humans. I personally think he was raised by dogs but this proved to be his downfall - his life was cut short when he tried to chase a passing car like any normal dog would.

Cat number three was the product of an incestuous relationship between mother and son. My sister's cat had kittens and they needed a home. This was not long after our kids had seen the Lion King and we ended up taking Simba off Fiona's hands. He was cute as a kitten but adventurous as a cat and a ruthless killer.

His adventurous nature led him into a slight altercation with a car and a fractured pelvis. The pelvis healed but that part of him was never the same. He became chronically constipated - ughh! And it was only made worse by eating everything he killed. Fur and feathers are guaranteed to block you up (useful tip to those runners who suffer from runner's trots). And no amount of paraffin oil or Catalax would unblock him. He always stank! And he'd often leave little brown offerings around the house.

All three cats used to use a dirt area under our house as their litter tray. And whenever we've had lots of rain that lovely aroma of cat pooh wafts through the air. It evokes lots of memories - and reminds me why we're now a dog family.

Besides a lot of people already think I'm a little crazy - I don't want my name in the same sentence as crazy and cat-lady.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Wet, Wet, Wet And Prune Toes

Yep, it's been a bit wet here. Constant rain for over 24 hours. A weather radar that looks like this.

Now the rain has settled a bit and the wind has come up. But I'm one of the lucky ones - no flooding and haven't lost power.

This weather makes it hard to actually do anything. And I'm not that great at twiddling my thumbs so I've taken a few teaspoons of concrete (it's more palatable mixed with chocolate powder) and gotten good and wet.

I've become a bit of an authority on human nature in my almost 50 years on the earth. When it starts to rain, the majority of the population like to hide in their houses. And yes, that includes the vast majority of cyclists that usually get out there in their lycra-clad droves every Saturday morning. Their absence was definitely noted this weekend. We runners were still out there pounding the pavement but not our two-wheeled fitness companions. 

Which begs the question - where do they disappear to when the weather turns foul? Do they send out cancellation texts from under the safety of their warm blankets to the same numbers that they usually send texts coordinating their weekend outfits? Do they set up their bikes on wind trainers in front of their televisions watching reruns of the Tour de France and pretend they're making that climb up the Pyrenees? Do they get their spouses to speak to them in French accents and prod them with baguettes if they start to slow down? 

We runners would never think of pulling out the treadmill in front of the television and watch the Boston marathon, pretending we could run like a Kenyan. And we'd certainly never do it with Chariots of Fire played loudly on endless repeat. No, a little bit of torrential rain and gale-force wind doesn't keep us indoors. We just pull on a cap and splash through the puddles like we're three year olds. And then we get home and pull off our socks to find that we look more like ninety-three year olds. Prune toes are particularly attractive in strappy sandals. 

Saturday's prune toes were from a lovely 12k with the group. Sunday's prune toes were from a long walk with my two pooches who also don't do house-bound very well. They'd spent a happy hour on Saturday night trying to burn off pent up energy in our lounge room. Our lounge room isn't really big enough to burn up any energy. They were climbing the walls and straightening pictures and generally making a nuisance of themselves.

"Almost straight - just a little higher on the left"

An hour and a half walking was enough to get them good and tired ... and wet. Our house smells a bit like wet dogs and wet shoes. Nice!!

Today's prune toes were thanks to an expedition into the city to check out the flooding and the damage. Sam kept me company and we both had a fun time jumping over downed branches, little lakes and random debris. The rain coming in side-ways and the wind gusts that kept buffeting us were not quite as much fun.

The river is well up and has started flooding all along the bike path that's our usual Saturday stamping grounds. The other side of the river is lapping over the boardwalk that leads to Southbank. And that's just the start. There's more water expected as it flows into our catchment area and more water = more flooding. It's not expected to be anywhere near the flooding of 2011 but it's still heart-breaking for those who were just starting to get back on their feet.

I'm really hoping that this weather settles soon. Aside from all of the damage and havoc, I'm down to my last pair of dry old runners and I really don't want to use my new ones.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Romance of the Run

All week I've been just a little bit stressed. This Saturday is Australia Day and Coach Chris had planned a special run for Australia Day. We usually run from the Regatta and out along the river on Saturdays. But for Australia Day, C.Chris wanted to do something a little bit more Aussie and for the last couple of years he's planned a run through the bush (ie a trail run on Mt Coottha) followed by a barbie (barbecue breakfast) of eggs and snags (sausages).

Doesn't seem too stressful does it? But it might if you hadn't run any hill sessions in over a year. I had to stop running them when I thought I had a hamstring strain in September 2011. Then the hamstring strain seemed to be because of a sacro-iliac joint problem. And then there was the issue of my tight hip flexor. Running up hills hurt and all the hip strengthening exercises didn't seem to help matters. If only I'd realised way back then that I didn't really have any chance of building muscle strength when I didn't have the help of my good friend testosterone. And then I could hardly run at all so running hills didn't seem to be an issue. Until the Australia Day run came up.

I wrestled a lot about whether I should go. I could just go do my usual run by myself but have no company. Or I could put on my big girl pants and just give it a go and not worry about failure.

But I DO worry about failure. Even when it's a run that is of no real consequence. Even when I'm with friends who know about my battle with health issues. Even though I know that if I never put myself out there and risk failure I'll never be brave enough to grow. And that was the cause of my silly stress.

So I had to give myself a stern talking to. First I had to ask myself what was the worst thing that could happen. Well obviously, the worst thing that could happen would be that I had a heart attack and died. But that's probably in the very, very, very low to miniscule range of probable outcomes.

Then the next worse thing that could happen would be falling and breaking part of me. But luckily I've got a tiny bit more muscle on my bones than I did a couple of months ago so the extra cushioning could help in the case of a catastrophic balance failure.

Then the next worse thing would be that I had to walk. And that's when all the alarms and sirens went off. That's really what I didn't want to do. Having to walk would hurt my pride. Boohoo!! I'd forgotten that to be a runner means having to put your pride way down deep in your pocket and just getting out there and doing it.

I want to get back to running hills. I want to enjoy the peace that running through the bush gives - where the sounds you hear are the creeks running, the birds chirping (or crows cawing, or those incredibly loud cockatoos screeching), your heart beating loud in your ears and your gasping for breath  as you near the crest of a hill. I want to see the sun rising over the silhouetted city glowing all pink and golden and know that we're part of a hardy group who push themselves to the limit while most of the city is still tucked up warm in bed.

I want the romance to come back into my running.

Is that something only runners get? Isn't it romantic to run through bush trails, in the rain, or the fog (how can I mention fog without thinking of Heathcliff and Cathy and eerie, foggy moors?), alone or in a group? Doesn't it fill that little place inside that needs an injection of nature on a regular basis to make you feel whole?

So I RSVP'd a big YES back to C Chris and started to look forward to the run. And then Oswald happened.

Tropical Cyclone Oswald decided to pay Queensland a visit. And it started to rain up north - actually, it started to pour. And then it started to flood. And then TC Oswald thought that it might visit a little further south and the weather forecast for Australia Day is now showers and rain. And our bush run and barbie have been cancelled.

So we're running from the Regatta this Saturday. But I won't forget about what I've learned this week and I'll be talking to C Chris about returning to hill sessions. Soon ... Maybe ...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Guilty Pleasures

I know, I know! My last post was all about being wealthy without the need for things BUT I couldn't help but be a little excited to see this on my doorstep this morning AFTER I'd been out for breakfast the second day in a row.

I didn't once for a minute believe it could be a surprise gift that Iven had bought for our forgotten wedding anniversary. I've been married to the man for 27 years and I'm used to the way he operates by now. Guilty presents for forgotten events are not part of his repertoire.


No, this is my own little guilty present to my feet. I'd forgotten just how long ago I bought my last pair of runners (No, last week's purple ones don't count. I need two pair in my rotation). For the last few weeks my feet have been sore after every run and hurt when I get out of bed in the morning. And that's a sure sign that my old shoes need to be put out to pasture - to run free and frolic in green pastures without my heavy clomping wearing them down.

These are the Mizuno Wave Rider 16 and I can't tell you which of my new pairs I like the most - probably because I haven't actually run in these yet. But if it's just on colour I think the red might just have the edge. They passed the trying-on-straight-out-of-the-box-without-socks test with flying colours. Don't my feet look fast in red? And doesn't that strapping make my ankles look sexy?!!

But as much as I love the new colour, I WILL NOT be buying a matching bra this time. Only hussies wear red unmentionables and I'm no hussy!

Unfortunately the quick arrival of these shoes have left me with a small dilemma. I didn't actually tell Iven I was ordering them. He's just about over the shock of the purple pair. And I'm wondering if it's just a little too soon. 

Will he survive the shock of seeing me in this racy pair?  Was this my evil plan all along - you know, the ingenious, evil plan where I fed my husband cupcakes full of saturated fats which elevated his cholesterol and filled his arteries with lovely sticky plaque that at the first sign of elevated blood pressure (ie - when he saw me in these) would break off and block a vital coronary artery and then I'd be FORCED to wear an inappropriately short animal print skirt (and a red bra) to his funeral because, of course, that was his dying wish.

But I digress.

They're languishing at the bottom of the wardrobe in their box at the moment while I make up my mind what to do. I'll probably just tell him that it was a buy one-get one free deal. Or maybe I'll just butter him up with a nice cupcake before I do the big reveal. (Cue evil laugh)


I wanted to share this picture with you. I saw them as I was walking up to my other guilty pleasure - that second breakfast out in a row. They're bush Curlews and they live at the University of Queensland. The first time I saw them I thought they were ornaments because they stood so still but I've realised that they're the bird equivalent of a Living Statue, earning a living by standing motionless in bronze paint.

This was the first time I've ever seen a mini-me curlew. Cute!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Rich Beyond Imaginings

A conversation with my Mum a couple of days ago started a flow of thought in me.

We were talking about board - how much I charge the boys and how much she used to pay way back when. Way back when was before Australia moved to decimal currency. Mum was paid the grand sum of twenty pounds a week and she was expected to pay five of them to her parents. But she admitted to me that she had a weakness for fashion and occasionally her board would be late because of a beautiful dress.

It got me to thinking about my own financial history. I'd gone from being a poverty-stricken student living from home on an allowance that Dad sometimes remembered to give me, to being a poverty-stricken newly-wed then new Mum with a mortgage. I'd done a bit of part time and locum work as a Vet after I'd graduated but once the second child came along I gave it up to concentrate on being a Mum. But Iven wasn't in a very highly paid position so to help make ends meet I started sewing for people and eventually created a business making sportswear - not a lucrative business but enough to pay the groceries and some extras.

All my married life money has been for necessities - food, electricity, clothes, mortgage and the kids. We wanted our kids to have a few opportunities so they all got to learn an instrument, learn to swim and play club sport. There was never really any decisions to make about money. If there was anything left over it went towards the mortgage. We didn't really have holidays - certainly not regularly - but I never felt like we were missing out. I'd never had a time where I'd been able to frivolously spend money on myself.

I was reading a Deb's latest post, Rich Man Poor Man, and it consolidated more of my thoughts on the matter of wealth. And then today I was reading Born to Run. It's about runners (how's that for stating the obvious)- a tribe in Mexico that consider running a birth rite and ultra marathoners - crazy obsessed people by most of the world's yardstick but people who love what they do.

What struck me was how rich these people considered themselves. They didn't need to be burdened with things. All they needed was trails, mountains, rivers and trees and the time to explore. Their wealth came in the form of relationships and the simple joy that comes with doing something you love.

And that's exactly the reason why I feel that I'm wealthy. It's not the multi-millions of dollars that are in the bank - believe me, it's definitely NOT that. There's enough to pay what needs to be paid with a little left over. My wealth is my family, my friends and being able to run.

Last night all of my sons had their girlfriends over. This morning the house was full. My heart was full. Last night I had coffee with a close friend who I can share anything with. This morning I had coffee with another close friend. We talked. We laughed. And I feel rich. Another dear friend has just become engaged and has asked me to help a little with the wedding. I don't have any daughters and to be able to help her has made me feel like I haven't missed out. Yesterday I struggled through a very unpleasant 16k in the heat. One of the squad saw that I was struggling and encouraged me to keep on - giving me the gift of caring words. And for the past few weeks I've been able to run four days a week and clock nearly 50k each week. All of these things I count as my fortune.

Yes, I know I've been a little extravagant the last couple of days with my purple pretties but I don't need them to be happy or content. All I need is the road in front of me, my ever-improving health and all the wonderful people in my life.


For those of you who came to read something light and possibly sarcastic I apologise. But I do have a little anecdote that might satisfy you until my sarcasm is fully restored.

It was my anniversary on Friday. Well, our anniversary really - I say 'my' because weddings are really only about the bride aren't they? The groom's just there as necessary window dressing. 

Yes, twenty seven years ago I promised to "have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part". And I've done my best to keep those vows. 

I may have forgotten to cherish him at times. I may not have held him when he was sick (ughh, germs!) and thought uncharitable thoughts about his forgetfulness and his ability to wake the dead with his snoring. I may have even devised ways for the 'death do us part' to come earlier but my love was shown in the fact that I've never actually followed through with any of my fool-proof homicidal plans.

I didn't get to see him before he left for work but the first thing I said to him on his arrival home was "Happy Anniversary."

I have never seen such a look of disbelief, horror and confusion as what his face contorted into.

"But it's not the 26th!!" he exclaimed. And then there was the moment of realisation "Oh, that's Australia Day" and then a very abashed "Happy Anniversary."

It's just as well that I actually don't expect him to make a big fuss or I may have had to use one of those plans after all.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Power Of Purple

I felt sick Wednesday night. I couldn't quite work out why my stomach wanted to rid itself of its contents or why my intestines were making audible (and I'm talking loud enough to be heard over the tennis in another room) gurgles. I still felt a bit sick at 2:30am and that's when I made the decision to turn off my alarm and forget about running for the day.

The nausea and GI upset were still there when I woke up and it finally occurred to me that when the Gastroenterologist said to avoid cruciferous vegetables it meant coleslaw as well as just plain old cabbage. That mound that I'd laden onto my plate the night before had apparently been a bad decision. My bacterial flora had taken one whiff of the cabbage and decided to throw a drunken party complete with helium balloons and at one point they decided to pop all those balloons just for fun. Did I say helium? It may have been sulpher dioxide.

The party was all over by the middle of the afternoon. I think they'd all fallen into a drunken stupor and once again my stomach felt normal. And it was about this time that thoughts of my missed run started to tap at the front of my brain.

Actually, I lie just a little. The thoughts had been tapping all day and never so loud as when these showed up on my doorstep.


Pretty, aren't they?!!

There is nothing more motivating to a runner than a new pair of shoes/running shorts/running top/socks or any piece of running technological wizardry. I knew as soon as they arrived that by day's end they would no longer have that new car, oops, shoe smell. And the bottoms would have some embedded gravel.

But there's a problem with running late at the moment. The temperature just doesn't drop until really late and sometimes doesn't drop at all. And then you have to factor in fuelling ie dinner. Should you have it before or after? And if it's after what can you prepare for the entire family that will still be edible when you get back. And will you need to make any unplanned toilet stops because your stomach isn't used to you running in the pm. Who would have thought that just pulling on a pair of shoes and going for a bit of a run would require so much planning and forethought?

I decided my magical number to run temperature-wise was 24 but by 6:20 the temps were still hovering around 26 so I changed my magical number and started. 

The shoes felt so good after running in ones that were making my feet hurt. There's nothing like cushioning that hasn't been ground into oblivion by repeated bouts of pounding. I did feel a little clumsy in the dark shoes - they reminded me of wearing black leather shoes at school (which I only did for a very short while before finding out that it just wasn't cool and I could get away with runners) but I told myself that purple was the height of fashion.

By the fourth kilometre I'd hit the dirt track out at the university. And this was when I started to realise that my new purple shoes possibly had special powers.There was a man up ahead of me running and my shoes decided that we could catch and pass him. And that's what they did. Despite my brain yelling at my feet to slow down they continued relentlessly on their mission to prove superiority. At some point I thought about the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale where the little girl put on her red shoes and they made her dance until she had to have her feet amputated and after her feet were amputated they still continued to dance on in her beautiful red shoes. Luckily my purple shoes were happy just to burn past him (and I'd like to mention that he was a good fifteen years younger than me and pretty fit looking), leave him sucking in my dust (but no cabbage fumes thank goodness) but still allow me to stop for water at the bubbler.

I left the uni, headed back home and then had another demonstration of the awesome powers of purple once we hit Oakman Park. The path in the park is lined with lights. I managed to turn the first one off, the second one on, the third one off then the eighth and tenth ones off too just by running beneath them. And then when I got to the road I was blown a kiss by a passing weirdo. What incredible super powers my new shoes have! That certainly wouldn't have happened if I was wearing my old shoes and if it had been light enough for the driver to see what he was blowing a kiss at.

So do I like my new shoes? You betcha. I like them enough to go out and buy a matching bra today. Hey, if the purple did all that for my feet, I'm really excited to know what the bra's going to do.

And even if it does nothing for up there, at least if I get hit by a bus I'll go out as a really coordinated corpse. I'm sure the staff at the mortuary will be impressed at my sense of style.


Some of you have noticed that there haven't been many pictures of cupcakes posted yet this year. (Yes, I mean you Jamoosh). That's probably because I actually hadn't made any yet. Gasp! My excuse is that I've been on holidays and it's just been way too hot to fire up the oven. But things came to a head the other day when there was actually not one brownie or cupcake left in the house and Luke and his girlfriend Becky felt obliged to make some.

So Wednesday I finally fired up the oven and made my first batch of cupcakes. And, being creatively inspired by finding some paper ice cream cups at the supermarket, I came up with a new way of presenting them which would be perfect for a kid's birthday party.

This is chocolate cupcake that I've baked in the cups, covered in chocolate buttercream and decorated with balls of cookie dough, chocolate sauce and sprinkles. It turned at just like I'd hoped. But that's a problem in itself - if I start off the year on a high, potentially the only way to go from there is down. Maybe I just will have to give up baking until 2014 rolls around.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Do Something Each Day that Scares You - Does Walking Two Dogs Together Count?

Let's start by announcing the winner to my dodgy, home-made give-away prize. (I like to really talk things up) And the winner is (cue drum roll)... Ali Mac. Ali if you can contact me with a few details we can discuss what and where.

Okay, housekeeping done - time to talk about other fun stuff namely me!

I did something unusual, possibly foolhardy and definitely brave this morning. I took both dogs for a walk AT THE SAME TIME.

I've been walking Toby regularly for ages now but really didn't include Bubbles in our expeditions. My reasoning was that I had to concentrate on getting Toby  to be good on the lead with as few distractions as possible. Toby is blonde and can be a little ditzy at times especially when there's strange and interesting dogs around, birds to chase (yes, with me attached by the lead) and strange noises to frighten us.

Every time I'd pull on my walking shoes (which are really my old running shoes in disguise) Bubbles would get a little excited and whine frantically until I told her that she couldn't come and then she'd jump on the couch and look sad.

Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, think I'll go eat worms.

I know it doesn't seem fair but Bubbles is over 10, weighs about 4 kilos and probably gets enough exercise running around the back yard chasing turkeys, fighting with Toby and jumping on and off couches and beds. Toby needed the exercise way more and I simply didn't have the energy to do two walks in a day on top of running.

But Toby is a lot better on the lead now so for the last couple of walks I've put on my big girl pants and pulled out both of their leads. As you can imagine, this creates pandemonium. A walk, to a dog gives the same excitement level as telling an eight year old that you're taking them out of school for the day to go to Dreamworld or Disneyland (unless that eight year old is scared of rides and in that case the announcement might be greeted with projectile vomiting).

No need for you to come, Mum. I know the way I can take her.

There is jumping, barking and lots of pulling which make getting down the stairs in one piece a feat in itself. Just as well I've got these massive guns (thanks to my illicit performance-enhancing drug use).

Working on the Tuckshop Lady arms (I was going to say bat wings but there are other definitions to that one according to Urban Dictionary that I'd never heard of)

Once we've safely negotiated the stairs the fun really starts. Stop, start, stop, sniff. It wouldn't be so bad if they managed to synchronise their stops but the smell that stimulates one dog's olfactory organ doesn't titillate the nostrils of the other. They meander across the path, not at the same time mind you. The leads go over, under and through until we're just a tangle of flesh and fur held together by black and red nylon.

The walk was punctuated by detangling stops, poo pick-ups (yes, I'm a responsible dog owner) and foliage watering. But the best moment came when Bubbles decided to check out exactly what Toby was doing when he squatted. That's a mistake I doubt she'll make again - she really doesn't like having to have baths.

This was supposed to be my rest day after two solid days' training. Not so sure that it was restful. But at least I've got some very tired canines who aren't going to do any mattress or magazine tearing today.

I'd like to finish off with a little gratuitous bragging - again.

I finished an entire speed session yesterday!! That wouldn't have been worth bragging about a couple of years ago but since January last year it definitely gets the Gold Seal of Boastfulness. The session was to run continuous reps like a time trial at a pre-determined pace (approximate 10k pace). Luckily my last 10k was in July and was pretty slow so I put myself into the 5:30/k group. Even then I wasn't confident but I made all 8k under that pace (between 4:58 and 5:25). Obviously need to do a little work on getting my pacing more even.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Fifty Shades of ...

What's wrong with us runners??!!

It's been hideously hot this last week. Not as hot as it has been in outback Queensland where the temperatures have been hitting close to 50C in some places. But hotter than it usually is. And hotter for longer than it usually is. And hotter at night than it should ever be. The temps didn't dip below 25C/77F for three nights in a row. And the humidity? Up around the 80% every morning.

Most of the population has decided that the only way to deal with this heat is to lock themselves away in their air conditioned houses or go to air conditioned shopping centres or maybe take a dip in the pool. All very sensible alternatives.

But what do we runners do? We get up super-early to beat the heat (who are we kidding - there's no beating this heat) and we run regardless.

Saturday morning a group from our squad were up well before the kookaburras hitting the road for their long run training for the Paris marathon in April. I was one of the slackers who only got up at quarter to five to do the 12k run. 12k was hard enough when the only breeze there was was what you could produce yourself and the water bubblers were giving you tepid water. I have no idea how the other group did it. But I know that the staff at the coffee shop we went to afterwards were all regaled with our stories of epic heroism and strength and fortitude in the face of bitter odds and hardship.

Today I only had to post this pic ...

on Facebook and I had comments that reminded me that I'm not the only crazy out there. We love to revel in the fact that we've sweat so hard that we look like we've been swimming, that we can't tell whether it's our nose running or we're just melting and that we've lost half a kilo in just 5 kilometres. We love to show people all our war wounds. The toe nails lost, the bloodied knees, the chipped tooth from the face plant onto the concrete, the blood blisters from the beach run. And we love to share how far we've run before most people were even out of bed.

We are basically masochists at heart. We don't do Fifty Shades of Grey - we prefer 50 Shades of Black and Blue. We get off on knowing that we've taken that teaspoon of concrete. No one tells us to harden up! 

So in the spirit of being a REAL RUNNER. I'd like to gratuitously brag that my run today started at 5:00am AND it was stinking hot AND I ran 12k AND I finished up with a 3k walk with my two favourite pooches. I was home before half of the family was out of bed! And believe me you're not the first to hear this. My coffee lady already knows, as do both of my sleepy sons and the lady at the supermarket. And they're all impressed (well, in my head they're impressed. I'm sure the eye rolling was because of a little dust in the air.)

Toby, however, is not that easily impressed with my feats on my feet. I think he's annoyed that he hasn't been invited on my runs since it's gotten so hot. I'm only thinking of him and trying to imagine how I'd feel if I was running 12k with a fur coat on. I got home to find him devouring an issue of Runner's World - quite literally. Although he may have been annoyed with the article on runner's nutrition that it was aimed at omnivores rather than carnivores.

I should just be grateful that these are the only running shoes that he's chewing on.

But this behaviour isn't as disturbing as how I found Teddy this morning. I don't know where Toby found out about pole dancing BUT I'm going to be having a serious chat with each of my sons.

Who else has done something epic and hard-core today? Please feel free to do a little gratuitous boasting of your own.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Looking For Love - My Little Foray into On-line Dating

I've just dipped my toes into the on-line dating pool.

I know! I know! I'm married. Mostly happily (I'll try not to think about the tissues left in pockets that end up in the wash and the toothpaste tube that gets squeezed from the middle and the dishwasher that's stacked THE WRONG WAY and no, I'm not OCD ... much). I'm even coming up to wedding anniversary number 27 in just a few days. My motto is 'better the devil you know' so I'm not looking to change things in a hurry.

The reason I was on this web-site was as moral support for a friend who is looking. She's tried other ways of finding a partner/boyfriend/companion/lover but it's just not easy out in the dating world. Personally I wouldn't have a clue how or where to start. Honestly, once you get to a certain age it's hard to know who's taken and who isn't, who's got serious stalkerish tendencies and carry date-rape drugs and gaffer tape in their brief case and who is just a genuinely nice bloke who's not found the right person or has found and lost her and is looking again.

I'm going to call my friend Ophelia for the purpose of today's post because I want to preserve her anonymity.

Ophelia had a spare day yesterday and we'd decided to spend it together. We'd had a lovely time wandering around in air conditioning at a shopping centre, having lunch and ticking off a few chores. But the real fun came when we finally sat in front of the computer in my kitchen.

The way it works is you put up a profile of yourself including pictures. You put down basics such as your age, where you live, if you have kids or want kids. Then you fill out your profile with info on the type of person you are - what's important to you, what you like to do, your values and dreams. Then the site matches you with potential candidates.

Ophelia had a huge list of potentials that fit her criteria - living within a 50k radius and aged between 40 and 60.

Then you start shopping. It kind of reminded me of a car sale. You look at the the picture first and suss out any physical imperfections. We immediately eliminated ones without a photo, after all you want to see what you're buying and whether it's got a dent or just a few scratches that you can buff out. Then the ones who couldn't take a 'selfie' or didn't have a friend to take a decent picture also got the flick. Then we eliminated used car and insurance salesmen, men into bikram yoga and that guy who looked like he could have been the devil if you'd drawn horns on him.

The one man who looked perfect (and I do mean perfect - model looks, great physique and interests that matched Ophelia's) was off the market. But we did send smiles to maybe a dozen men. What flirts! Sending electronic smiles over the internet!! We're so daring.

Now we wait until someone smiles back. And then there might be a little chatting - on-line of course. And eventually maybe a coffee date. It's sort of like going to a party and seeing someone you like but this way you know that he's looking for someone too and you're not going to spend an entire evening chatting up someone else's friendly husband.

On the way through it made me wonder whether I'd go there if something ever happened to Iven. Like maybe he left one too many tissues in his dirty clothes and I actually managed to pull off the perfect murder. (Of course I've never actually thought of that scenario before. I have no idea how it just popped into my head.) Would I go out actively searching or would my Golden Retriever and forty four cats be enough for me? And if I went out looking would I find the right person who was looking for a psycho lady who runs too much but can bake a mean cupcake?

All I can say is after looking on the dating site, Iven had better kick off soon because the older you get the slimmer the pickings are. And I will have to become a cougar. Anyone have a Lycra leopard print skirt I can borrow? Actually don't worry - I can make my own.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Revenge Massage

I've been able to increase my kilometres in the last two weeks. I'm back up to running four times a week and I'm trying to stretch one run out a bit longer. But with the added kilometres comes a few little niggly aches and pains and the tendency to walk like an eighty year old for the first couple of minutes out of bed.(I may be exaggerating here. I know some very sprightly eighty year olds who probably spring out of bed much better than me.)

I have a problem hip. It's a little like a problem child - it whines and complains about doing anything it doesn't want to, it refuses to make his bed and put away his washing but if anyone mentions ice cream he's the first to put his hand up. Oh sorry. I got a little distracted by the problem child thing. But my hip DOES whine and complain if I don't treat it nicely. And by treating it nicely I mean stretching it DILIGENTLY after every run (and maybe even later during the day), doing a little yoga and torturing it with my roller and a tennis ball. Yes, my hip is into S and M.

Last week I was not a very judicious stretcher or roller. And my hip has decided to misbehave. My hip flexor has been super-tight and my sacro iliac joint has been complaining. The bottom half of me was a bit sick and twisted so I decided that action had to be taken. It was time to book in for a massage.

One of my sisters did a massage course last year and has been giving me 'mates rates' on massages. She was free this morning so I went around for my hour and a bit of torture and hip-taming. It's all fun and games until she actually starts touching me and then the groaning and wailing start.

My hip was so tight today that she couldn't tell what was muscle and what was bone. So she dug her elbow in. I need to mention at this point that Julie is a very strong woman. She's a rower who still competes at age 51. And she has really, really sharp, pointy elbows.

I tried to talk through the pain but sometimes my chat was interrupted by a guttural sound or a little cursing. A couple of times I had to go into a safe place in my head where no pain could touch me. And it was those times that I wondered what I'd done to make her want to hurt me so bad. We always got on pretty well even as kids.

And then it occurred to me that it was possibly pay-back for the time when we hung her first bra in a very public place when we knew that visitors were expected. Back then it was called a training bra - not sure why because breasts are a little immune to training. No amount of directing them to sit up and stay seems to work. I've even tried to bribe them with M&Ms. Don't judge - it works with Toby.

Julie had only had hers for a week or so and it was a source of fascination and amusement for her younger sisters. The Youth Group from church was coming over. We were young. We were immature. And it seemed really funny at the time.

I can't quite remember the end of the story but I'm sure there was some embarrassment involved. But did that embarrassment cause lasting and painful memories? Enough to warrant pay-back??

When she finished I realised that, as usual, she had only my best interests at heart. My hip had stopped hurting. I could move much more freely than before. My sister still loves me.

Thanks Julie. And sorry about the bra thing. I won't ever do anything like that again. 


My fashion faus pax clothing have undergone a little renovations so I can now run comfortably and without fiddling with my outfit for the entire run. (I will never again buy shorts that say 'cheeky' on the tag) I've sewn down the split in the shorts and hopefully it'll still allow me to run uphill. But despite this little hiccup I'd like to say that I'm very impressed with this range of clothing. It's called One Active and it's marketed through Big W. It has all the features that the big names have and that I'm looking for without the hefty price tag - $25 for a pair of shorts compared with the $65 pair that I tried on in Lorna Jane. And that means that I can buy more without guilt.

Heaven knows I don't need any more guilt than I've been living with for the last few days. Some of it is bad guilt. Like sneakily throwing away a shirt that I'd been soaking to get a stain out of only to realise a few hours later that I'd been a little heavy-handed with the bleach. I HAD managed to get out all those nasty sweat stains from under the arms but it's no longer the 70's and the tie-dyed look isn't so acceptable in the business place. 

Some of my guilt has come in the form of guilty pleasures. Like taking one or two of Iven's Christmas chocolate and sneak-eating them. He has offered them to me because they're the ones with the nuts but they honestly taste better when I sneak them. And then there's the toilet paper that Josh brought home from his night away. Stolen hotel paper is softer and more absorbent. I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed going to the loo in the last couple of days.

Now I'm going to head off and have a guilty little nap in front of the tennis. I love holidays.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Wardrobe Malfunction.

Ever had a wardrobe malfunction? I have.

My worst was probably when those see through plastic bra straps were in. People of my generation (ie getting on in years) were brought up to NOT show their underwear. We made sure our skirts and shorts covered our undies (and seriously we pushed that to the limit in the 70s) and our bra straps were tucked in. The showing of underwear was considered, at the worst, lewd and at the best, racy. So see through bra straps seemed a good idea.

And they were ... until they'd past their use-by date. Problem was that you weren't given a use-by date on the packet so it'd kind of sneak up on you. Surprise! I was lucky enough to have both straps do a synchronised snapping while I was out at the shops. I was walking along one moment trussed up like a Christmas chicken and the next minute the chickens were running around the coop.

I was momentarily flummoxed (love that word but not the feeling) - until I realised that it was the best possible place for the straps to go. I could just go down to the bra shop and buy another pair. Problem solved.

Today I had another wardrobe malfunction. And I'm going to blame this on Iven and Sam.

We went shopping yesterday. Sam needed some good pants for his prac placements in the upcoming weeks. Iven had a gift card to use and I just wanted a coffee. We went out to a shopping centre a bit further a field than our local because our local is undergoing renovations and basically it's not fun to shop there.

We ended up in Big W, a department store that's for the budget-conscious shopper because all three of us are cheap! I'd shopped there a bit before Christmas and found a great new range of sports wear by Michelle Bridges, the trainer of Australia's biggest loser. I'd bought myself a pair of running shorts and then the boys had bought me another pair for Christmas and they ticked all the boxes - cool, comfortable, big enough zip pocket for my car key and didn't make me look fat. So while Sam was browsing, I went to the women's section and found myself a whole new outfit. I tried it on quickly because I didn't want to keep the boys waiting and it looked and felt okay so I bought it. Note to self - when trying on running clothes in the change room, make sure you actually move around in them.

It was hard not to run yesterday just because I had new clothes to run in but I was good and kept the day as a rest day. (See, I do follow my training schedule Coach Chris) But the clothes were all laid out for me ready to go for this morning's run. I put them on and they looked as good as they had the day before in the change room and then I headed out the door.

When I'd looked at the receipt the day before I'd had a little laugh because the shorts were called cheeky shorts. They hadn't looked cheeky on me. I'm almost 50 and I've never done cheeky and I'm not about to start now unless the dementia really takes a hold.

Well, today I DID cheeky.

It was cheeky in the way Angelina did cheeky at the Oscars.

I hadn't realised that the side split was split ALL THE WAY TO THE WAIST. So every time I lifted my leg there was a good expanse of pale, pasty, pallid and possibly cellulitey thigh on display. And the hem had a tendency to flip up making the run a lot more risqué than I was comfortable with.

And then there was the top. As I ran, my top experienced the forces of gravity more than any other part of my ensemble. I don't like showing my once-white-but-now-an-ugly-grey bra. It's a dead give-away that I don't separate my whites and coloureds when I wash. And definitely goes against my strict Baptist-don't wear bikinis-don't have your ears pierced-and definitely don't show any flesh upbringing.

I decided early on that I shouldn't worry too much about it - it was just after 5am when I left home so I figured that there probably weren't many people who were going to see me. 

Wrong! I saw five people that I knew while I was out. (One was Iven and he was pleasantly surprised to see me showing cleavage for a change). I had to stop and chat to two of them who I hadn't seen in a while.

Why is it that I can do really long runs and not see anyone and when I don't want to see anyone I see them in droves?

Has anyone else had a wardrobe malfunction on the run? (or not on the run?) 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Clean? I DON"T Clean!

Gasps resonated around the world yesterday when I posted about not messing up my new iPhone. And I'm expecting even louder gasps of astonishment and amazement today. But first I have to give you a bit of background information.

Some long term readers may remember me mentioning casually how much I hate, detest, despise, loath and abhor housework. Yes, I know I claim to be a domestic goddess but that only applies to sewing and baking. Goddesses get to choose what they're good at. I like to do stuff that gives me satisfaction when I've finished - and making stuff gives me that kind of satisfaction. Baking especially gives satisfaction even before I've finished - the kind of satisfaction that causes a sugar coma. (Maybe I should have made one of my New Year's resolution to STOP licking the spoon, beater and my fingers when I bake).

To keep domestic harmony, I've had a cleaning lady come once a week. I figure if I'm working and Iven's working why should I be the one who has to clean as well? But my cleaning lady, Evelyn, always has holidays around Christmas which means I have a decision to make. Either I live in squalor for a few weeks (and believe me this is what I opt for most years) or I suck it up, put on my French maid's costume and pull out the feather duster.

This is the last week before she comes back and I want to tell the entire world that I have cleaned every single one of the weeks that she was away. Is your mind blown yet??

But I have to admit that I've really only cleaned one room in our house every week. And I've done it for entirely selfish reasons.


Golden Retrievers have many fine traits as pets but they are terrible shedders. And of course they shed when it's hot. But when it's hot I come home from my runs like this ...

And after I've stretched on the lounge room floor I look a lot like this ...

I don't want every one blaming the fact that I'm on the 'roids for my new hirsute look so I did what I had to do. 

I miss Evelyn!

I've now been on treatment for five weeks and I can't believe how good I feel some days. I'm not feeling good every day but more and more often I'm feeling normal. I can't explain just how wonderful it feels to feel normal. I've had four days this week feeling great. And by great I mean that I'm not feeling nauseated all morning. I don't need to have a nap. And I'm recovering from my runs (the runs themselves are still slogging along but it's reassuring to know that if I push myself I may feel tired that day but I'll feel okay the next - not tired for the following few days). 

I ran 15k yesterday. I'd chatted with Coach Chris about my program. The one he gave me for this four week block was minimalist. Only three sessions a week BUT I have permission to add a fourth when I'm feeling up to it. And I have permission to stretch out my long run as I recover. The problem is that when I'm with the group on Saturday I tend to run just a little faster than when I'm running alone. And when I run alone I don't feel so bad if I have to resort to occasional walk breaks. So until I get a bit more confident I'll be making my Thursday run the longer one. 

That's brought you up to date with my progress and this video will bring you up to date with Toby's. 

I think we need a whole lot more practice.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Award Nominations

Cute little fellow isn't he?! I thought so but my first-born was reduced to waving the white flag (or rather, tissue) after a little encounter with him last night. 

Me and the religious mantis here were having a lovely bonding session in front of the tennis last night (where our boy Tomic beat world #1 Djokovic - woot!). He was exploring and doing Zoolander's Blue Steel and I was playing paparazzi when Sam came into the room. 

Sam and The Mantis did NOT take to each other. Sam got all freaked out that The Mantis was going to fly at him. Luckily he stopped short at actually squealing like a girl. The Mantis took Sam as a threat and proceeded to follow Sam's every move. Sam moved around the table. The Mantis did his best Carrie impression.

Sam got a little too close and The Mantis went all Karate Kid on him (minus the blood and the beheading).

Luckily Sam didn't have as an extreme reaction as one of my arachnophobic running friends.

He picked up a tissue, waved it in front of The Mantis to make sure he was good and angry then picked it up and flung it outside. I wonder if he'll be nominated for a bravery award.

I probably should be nominated for an award too.

My new iPhone arrived today. Remember how my old one had been throwing hissy fits a few weeks ago which ended up in me getting all confused about geek terms like backing up and synching. Goodbye all the contacts on my phone and my Christmas shopping list and many other useful and important bits of information. There was a day of mourning in our house.

I'd spent a fair bit of time on the phone that day with a lovely lady called Marianne. And the reason that she was lovely was because she offered me a phone swap even though my phone was out of warranty (by three days!). I didn't take her up on it because my phone miraculously started to behave itself while we were still talking. I think it was the fear of becoming obsolete and maybe being stripped for parts and ending up in an iPad. 

Just last week the fit-throwing started up again. Do you know just how frustrating it is to be trying for your high score in Sudoku with the screen lagging and the phone shutting down in the middle of it?  And there were a couple of conversations that were cut short when the phone deemed that they were probably too boring to be part of. (Sorry Coach Chris but when you said that nothing much had happened the phone just made a judgement call.)

So I decided to contact Marianne and take her up on her offer. And today I got the dubious pleasure of trying to get all my information from one phone to another without breaking anything, throwing a tantrum or sitting in a corner, rocking. 

At this point I'd like to remind you that I'm almost 50 and these hand-talk-box thingies weren't invented when I was in my formative years. "You have three sons," I hear you say. And yes I do, but they mock my iPhone - treat it with the scathing derision that's usually reserved for Glee night. And they're rarely home. And if they're home they're usually asleep. So I knew I was on my own.

I'm happy to report that my new phone now holds exactly the same information as my old phone AND all the apps are in exactly the same spots. And it only took me about an hour to nut it all out. And I took no calmative drugs at all in the process - either before, during or after. 

Do you think that testosterone cream has magical geek powers?