Sunday, March 31, 2013

Terms Of Reference

I have to admit that my whole view of the world is tainted by being a runner.

Actually tainted is probably not the right word. It infers that it's been contaminated or poisoned in some way when it actually makes me see things through rose coloured glasses - or fogged-up glasses when the weather gets really humid.

What I'm actually trying to say is that I see the world in terms of running. For example if I see a road sign that says the exit is in 10k I immediately think - "I could do that in about 55 mins, maybe 50 if I was racing or being chased by a man wielding a machete"(because that sort of thing happens all the time when you're running down the highway in search of an exit).

When I'm driving routes that I run, I'll often tell my eye-rolling ('is she talking about running again?') passenger every minutiae of my last run on that route. Point out the hills (which strangely don't look at all hill-like when I'm driving). Show them bushes where I've had to make toilet stops (they're always so proud of their mother when I tell them stuff like that). And generally bore them to death with my one-tracked conversation.

On Saturday something happened which really showed just how obsessed with running I am. Iven and I were driving home from the markets and found ourselves behind a police station wagon. The back of the wagon was filled with lots of equipment and on top of the pile was a stack of witches cones. Instead of thinking "oh, he must be going out to set up an RBT (random breath test) somewhere" I thought "he must be going out to set up for a speed session".

There is absolutely no logic in that thought. Why would a uniformed policeman be driving somewhere in his police car to set up for a speed session? They wouldn't be but my brain associates cones with speed.

Or it could be that I'm just getting old and logic isn't part of my default thinking any more.

Does anyone else think like this?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

I Can Too

I know I've mentioned it once or twice before BUT I'm going to say it again (because it's worth repeating) belonging to a running group is the best thing EVER.

Running groups can do so much for your running. For a start, you become more accountable. It's harder to bail on runs when there are people expecting you. And once you're running consistently there's no way that you don't improve.

You tend to push yourself a little more when you're in a group. Speed work is much more bearable when you've got company and you will almost always work just a little bit harder, push to the end and try to hold your position in the group. This occurrence, which I'll call 'the ego phenomenon' may result in occasional dry heaving but the group respects exercise-induced emesis so it's all good.

Long runs are so much more pleasant when they're done in company. Two or three hours of running by yourself can have you having conversations in your head just to break up the boredom. And we all know that talking to ourselves, even if it's just in our heads, is definitely a sign of impending craziness. Just ask my kids. (Seriously, I never talk to myself. Toby is always around and talking to a dog is eccentric, not crazy.)

Being with a group makes you more accountable on the long run too. You're less likely to walk up that hill, or call a taxi to take you home at the half way mark. It's that ego phenomenon again.

And the people you meet in your running group WILL inspire you. And that's really what this post is about.

Over the last few days a number of the GaleForce Running Squad have been flying out of Brisbane, all with one destination in mind. They're off to Paris to run the marathon next weekend.

Having runners travel to run a marathon isn't that unusual. But this group of ten is made up of four runners who've completed the 42.2k before and six who haven't. Their adventure was concocted over a few drinks (as many adventures are) last year and it's been fun to watch them stretch out their runs, overcome injuries and self-doubt and finally believe that they can do it.

Two of the group have had to overcome stress fractures and a later start to their marathon training. Peter, who's going to become a marathoner at the age of 63, has had ongoing Achilles tendon issues and has had to do a lot of rehab and alternative training. Most of them are in the second half of their life and not one has let it stop them.

Easter Friday morning we all (bar two who had already flown out) met for one last time and one last run. And fittingly we ran from La Dolce Vita - a cafe in Brisbane that has a replica of the Eiffel Tower in front of it. It was so great to breathe in their excitement and hear about their holiday plans.

I've just registered for the Melbourne Marathon (yes, I stopped procrastinating) and every time I've thought about doing it I've felt a little flutter of nerves. I get nervous about the training, about travelling, about getting nervous and about failing. But spending time with my inspirational running friends gives me courage. If they can so can I.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

And Now For The Good News

I'm touching wood as I type this because I don't want to jinx myself - I'm finally starting to run a little faster and a little longer. Yes, some of my former speed and endurance and finally starting to resurface.

It's so exciting!

But more exciting than just seeing better numbers on my Garmin is knowing that I can actually push myself in sessions now. Without fear of my legs buckling. Without fear that I'll have to cut the session short. Without fear that I'll need to spend the rest of the day in bed.

That's the most wonderful feeling of all.

I noticed the return of speed for the first time last week. Coach Chris had us running a ladder going up in 500m increments. When I got to the 1k rep I felt like I was running within myself, knowing there was a 1500m and a 2k still to come.So you could have knocked me over with a feather when my lap time showed that I'd run a 4:36 AND then been able to clock respectable paces over the longer distances.

Then again this week doing 1 mile reps I was astounded to see that last week's achievement wasn't a fluke - 7:31. Yay me!

I know there are plenty of people out there who can run way faster than this but I'm just running against myself and pushing the boundaries of what I've been given, so these times make me happy. Especially remembering that at this time last year an amazing run was one where I could run the whole way. Speed was out of the question and once I was able to go back to speed I had to cut the session short and walk all the recoveries.

Last year a 12k run had me pushed to the limit. I've just finished a month where each of my long runs was over 18k and my weekly totals were 50k or over.

I am just so very grateful. That I found out what ailed me. That it could be treated. That I've responded to the treatment so well. That I had good friends to lean on through my time in the running wilderness. That I can run again.

So many times in the last couple of years I doubted that I'd ever get back to this point. And that's why  it makes so happy. And it makes me confident enough to contemplate actually having a race schedule (please note that none of these races have actually been entered into yet because I am a master at procrastinating)

May - Mother's Day Classic 4k (start off small)
June - Doomben 5k
July - Gold Coast 10k (my ninth in a row) and possibly the half marathon on the following day.
September - Sydney Half Marathon
October - Melbourne Marathon

Not too many but enough, I think, to consider it a comeback.

I couldn't finish this post without sharing the latest pics of Toby.

He's become a velcro dog and hates to be away from me. He's even taken to sleeping under my work table. It can be a bit of a pain because he wedges his foot underneath the sewing machine pedal and I wonder why I the machine won't go.

Then other times he lends a helping paw to save my legs a bit of work. Not so great when he presses down at the wrong moment and the fabric gets away from you.

But all is forgiven when work's over and we have our nightly cuddle ritual on the couch in front of the Biggest Loser. I sit there and mock the contestants who give up after a minute or two of breathlessness and he gives me the 'seriously, where's your compassion' look. Or maybe I'm reading too much into it and he's just wondering why I'm not stroking him any more.

For all of you non-pet owners out there, this is totally normal behaviour. There is absolutely nothing obsessive or eccentric about it.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Still Learning

I've just worked out that I've been running on and off for 32 years. No, I didn't need a calculator to work that out. Or an abacus. I managed with just my fingers and toes and a few borrowed ones from my spouse.

You'd think after running all this time I'd know nearly everything to know about it. But it seems that I don't. Only just this last week I've learnt a couple of new things.

 - If you can your morning's long run because you've spent most of the night tossing and turning then decide that you can make it up in the afternoon. Then if the weather is still pretty warm and humid and you run 19k and sweat like a pig. Then you get home and only drink a couple of glasses of water and don't pee before you go to bed you may wake up with your mouth feeling like the Sahara in the morning. You may also have a bit of a headache and feel like a wrung out dish rag.

Lesson learnt - dehydration is not fixed by going to bed and sleeping on it. And it definitely needs to be prioritised. The penalty I had to pay was missing my Monday run because I knew I was in need of another recovery day. But I substituted my favourite form of cross training and two dogs had 5k of happy sniffing.

- If you want to pick up your pace towards the end of a long run, accidentally run through the middle of a race.

Who does that? Well me, apparently. I had a 20k on the books for yesterday and there were only a couple of us going that far. We got to the turn around point together but somewhere on the way back I managed to lose them. This can happen if you're running at the front and don't realise that you've dropped them on the hills because you're in your happy place.

I waited for them at the bridge and while I was waiting a stampede of runners came past. It was the Southbank Park Run group and I decided that rather than run all the way back by myself I'd prefer to have company, so I joined in.

I can not run in a race (even if I'm not IN the race) without running a little bit faster. My stubborn pride makes me want to pass people who I decide I should be faster than. I wanted,with everything in my being, to be faster than the woman who was running with inappropriately short tights. (I love being old enough now to deem clothing as inappropriate.) There is no way that I want to be beaten by someone with a wedgie. And I didn't want to spend three kilometres watching her butt cheeks wobble.

My pace dropped from almost 6 min k's down to just over 5 min. I passed wedgie woman and a couple of youngish men. It does my heart good to still be able to 'chick' blokes at my age. And every time I do I wished I had the nerve to say 'you're being passed by a 50 year old'. Even better to do it when you've already run 15k.

I wished I'd been able to convince my fellow racers to continue on to my finish point instead of going back over the bridge to theirs. It would have made those last two kilometres go a little faster. But I was pretty satisfied to know that I can still pick up the pace even after running for an hour and a half.

It's Easter this weekend. So I spent the rest of the weekend getting busy with my piping bag. These will be coming with me to speed session on Tuesday. I'm not expecting to bring many home.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Slippery Slope Downhill - Just as Well I Don't get Motion Sick

I was so naive going into my fiftieth birthday. I figured that I'd have a week long festival of celebrations (which I did), have to shrug off some good natured banter about the onset of a host of age-related maladies (which I did) and then be able to forget that it ever happened.

But I was wrong.

Yesterday, in the mail, I received the first of who-knows-how-many gifts from the government which I'm sure is their kind way of letting me know that I'm on a slippery slope downhill to a pine box. Happy Birthday to me!


That pretty pink envelope had a nice invitation to go get a free mammogram because I'm in the right age bracket now to be needing such things. That actually didn't worry me too much. I've had mammograms before courtesy of having lumpy breasts and they're no big deal. Plus I'm all for preventative screening. But when I posted about this on Facebook I got a couple of responses that got me thinking.

Lisa's response was a little cryptic until I remembered that when Iven turned fifty he got a lumpy tan envelope in the mail. The lump in it was a small pathology collection bottle in which the patient/client is supposed to put a small amount of ... how do I put this nicely?... poo. It's to be tested for occult blood - blood that's there but can't be seen and which may be the indicator of something sinister.

Again, I'm all for preventative medicine and being pro-active with your health but sometimes I like to use the princess/squeamish girly card and collecting my own poo to send off for someone to dabble around in is one of those times.

Funnily enough I don't use that princess/squeamish girly card when I'm poking around in my dog's poo looking for candles. And I never used it when I was a vet student with my arm plunged up to the shoulder in a cow's rectum. But as a woman I reserve the right to be fickle. That makes me so much more fun and spontaneous - or, as my family will testify, erratic. Too bad boys - the upside of living with me is all those yummy cupcakes.

But now I've begun dreading getting that tan envelope. I'm pretty sure I'll have performance anxiety which might cause a catastrophic bowel shut down. And because I've had to modify my eating habits since developing a few food intolerances, I can be erratic at the best of times. (TMI?) 

At least I have a sure-fire way to get things moving. I know I bang on about running being a cure for all that ails you (except over training syndrome and running-related injuries), but in this case it's most definitely true. Running can make you need to go and need to go in a hurry! That's probably the only reason why I know where every public toilet is within a ten kilometre radius. I also know where all the best branching, discreet trees are too. And it's why I prefer to run in the dark of morning rather than bright sunlight.

Only just last week I got caught a little short (like over 2k) and had to do a bit of bush bashing. The bush bashing part isn't too bad apart from all the spiders webs (and they're kind of reassuring that you're in a spot that is seldom used). It's the emerging from the bushes that's the scary bit - it's a little disconcerting when you almost bump into someone on your way out.

But I checked before I went in and I'm sure I didn't see anyone.

Emerging from the bushes with that little bottle in hand would be a hard one to explain away.

And the performance anxiety isn't just over the production. I'm also worried about the quality. The consistency, the colour and the content. Would it ring alarm bells if they found glitter and parts of sequins? Hey, I work with fancy fabrics and those sequins end up in the most extraordinary places.

I think too much, don't I?!!

But back to Facebook and Karen's comment. When she turned 55 she was offered discounts on a range of mobility aids and incontinence products. (This offer was incredibly ludicrous considering that Karen regularly performs feats of endurance that would be daunting to someone half her age. She ran the 6 Foot Track only a couple of weeks ago) 

Oh great! I have only five more years until I'm not supposed to be able to get around under my own steam. Seriously??? Those wheelie-walkers would cause a bit of havoc when I'm lining up in a race. But I'm sure a self-adhesive incontinence pad could have other uses. Like as a heavy duty bandaid for when I fall during a trail race. And some of those super-soaker incontinence pads could be used to dry up those pesky creek crossings so I can keep my shoes dry. 

Plus they can really accessorise your outfit if you're going to a Sci-Fi convention

So after a lot of careful consideration, I think that Queensland health need a new logo for all their "Over 50" initiatives.


Yep, turning fifty has had a charm all of its own.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Me vs Dementia

The rot has started to set in.

That's brain rot I'm talking about. I was warned that strange things start to happen to your body after you turn fifty but I didn't think it would happen quite so instantaneously.

I went shopping last week. Nothing out of the ordinary there. I go to the shops almost every day. Mostly to just get out of the house and have a coffee. And to pick up the things that we've run out of because, with four males and a couple of girlfriends that are in and out, we run out of stuff fairly regularly. 

But last week I wasn't allowed to park in my usual area. The centre is undergoing MAJOR renovations and it's incredibly annoying for the patrons. When I got out of the car I told myself in very stern words that I would have to remember that I'd parked in a different spot. So of course, when I came to leave I went down to my old area. I suppose it's not all bad - I got at least another 500m of incidental exercise because I'm forgetful. Score - Dementia 1: Me 0

On Sunday I had to meet a friend at a shopping centre over the other side of town. It was a birthday event - breakfast and the movies and lots of catching up. But at the end of the morning I remembered that I'd forgotten to get my Mum a birthday card and, seeing as it was her birthday that day, I couldn't really put it off any longer. But this was not my usual shopping centre and I had no idea where a newsagent was. And it's a big centre with a huge potential to get lost. So I decided that I would only head in a straight line and if there was no newsagent then I'd just have to make a card. Luckily there was a department store that sold cards (and, coincidentally, running ringlets and, even more coincidentally, there was an amazing red one in my size - score!). But by the time I'd chosen a card I'd forgotten exactly which direction I'd come in. Another extra 500m of incidental exercise that day but I DID make it to the car eventually. Dementia 2 : Me (still) 0

Monday I didn't run because it's my cut-back week so about 6:30am I staggered out of bed in that still somnolent state and started to get my breakfast. I pulled out a bowl and went to get my cereal but I couldn't see it. I moved all the boxes around but it definitely wasn't there. So I checked in the fridge to see if I'd inadvertently put it there. Nope! What the?!! It had been there yesterday.

My frustration and confusion was growing and I'd almost reached the point of total exasperation when I spied the container. On the bench. I must have pulled it out before I'd gotten my bowl but done it without thinking. Dementia 3: Me (embarrassingly, still) 0.

And finally, yesterday I got a win. Tuesdays I shower at the track which means that Monday I pack my bag with all the stuff I need - clothes (and yes, I've forgotten underwear once or twice), footwear, toiletries and my hair dryer. I put my hair dryer straight in the bag after I'd finished my hair on Monday morning. Or so I thought ... because when I went to pull it out on Tuesday, it wasn't anywhere to be seen. My brush was there but a brush is useless without the dryer. I pulled everything out of the bag and sure enough, there was NO dryer. I was positive that I'd put it in but I had a sinking feeling that I'd fully intended to put it in but hadn't followed the intention with an action.

Four incidents of brain rot in one week had to be a record. Not a good record and a sign of things to come - like days filled on eternal treasure hunts looking for items put down in the wrong spot, upsetting the boys by calling them the wrong names (oh yeah, I already do that one), confusing sugar with salt in my cupcakes, forgetting how to dress myself, drooling and having to wear a bib.

But then I remembered something (one point for me). Becky had been over on Monday and there was a chance that she'd used my dryer after she'd showered. And she just might have put the dryer back in it's usual spot. One text confirmed my suspicion. Yay! I wasn't totally losing it!! And that had to be worth at least five points to me. (It's my game so I get to work out the point-scoring system)

Final tally - Dementia 3 : Me 6

I win ...

... for the moment.

Just a post-script about Toby's birthday. If you look carefully at the picture, you might see that there's a candle in the cake. Two seconds after I took that photo there was a candle in Toby. Oops - not my best and proudest veterinary moment but I wasn't too worried. I was pretty sure it would pass.

So for the past few days I've been shadowing Toby pretty closely to make sure that if someone was to x-ray him they wouldn't feel the urge to sing Happy Birthday.

I took him on a walk on Monday but let's just say that walk was non-productive. So I left instructions for Iven to watch him on Tuesday  morning while I was out running and mark on a map if he did the 'squat and drop'. I got home after speed to find no map (proving that I love Toby more than he does) so I decided to see if I could find his freshest offering. Surprisingly, the pile with all the flies around it wasn't the freshest. There were two other piles that had a moistness factor that only the very recent can lay claim to. But despite close examination with a stick, I found no trace of the pretty blue candle.

Last night Iven took Toby for his walk and voila, out it popped to the amazement of all the passing dogs and owners (although I'm sure they would have been even more amazed had it emerged lit).

I'm currently trying to think of a feasible story to explain to the neighbours why I was trawling our garden and skewering dog poo. Any suggestions will be gratefully received.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy Birthday Toby

Toby turned one on Friday.

Is it sad that I actually know the birth date of my dog? Personally, I'm happy to claim the title of besotted dog owner. Or crazy dog lady. Just don't ever call me a crazy cat lady or I'll claw your eyes out and hiss at you.

Toby's been such a wonderful addition to our family - for me at least. He's such a great companion. He sleeps in my workroom during business hours and has only barked at a client once. He fetches our paper when we can't be bothered walking down the stairs in the morning. He makes Iven go for a walk at least three times a week. And he makes me laugh every day.

Even when he's been naughty.

He's also the BEST cuddler. He crawls up on the couch with me every night to get a bit of TLC and a good tummy rub. 

I didn't want to appear too obsessed when it came to his birthday so we kept it a low-key affair. I bought him a new set of tennis balls because they're almost his favourite thing in the world - besides a good tummy rub.

And I also made him a cake. That's not going overboard is it? It's perfectly normal to bake your dog a special cake for his birthday surely!!

But I didn't bake the cake so that he could eat it. I made it so he could lick the bowl. Because that's also one of his favourite things.

I also made the cake to use one of the birthday presents I'd been given - a set of colour gels for baking. They'd reminded me of a cake I'd seen on Kristin's Pinterest board. I had to go out and buy a new cake tin which was an engineering work of art. 

Then I made the coloured balls to put in the cake.

 It turned out looking great but it was a bit drier than I would have liked so I'm going to have to tweak it a bit next time - not cook the balls for more than 10 minutes and use a moister recipe. 

Toby didn't mind that it was dry, though. He used every begging technique in the book to get some.

And maybe I did weaken, just this once. After all you only have one first birthday.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Retrospective - Smattering Of How It Used To Be

My fiftieth birthday seems to be the perfect occasion to look back at how far the world has come since I was born. I thought it might be fascinating to my kids in years to come seeing the changes that have happened in a seemingly short amount of time (of course I have to say short because if I didn't it'd be admitting that fifty is old).

My earliest memory is getting lost in the city. Apparently I was about three at the time and I was found by the police and returned to my parents. Back then the city was the only place to really shop. There weren't any of the big suburban shopping centres like there are now. It wasn't all that hard to shop in the city back then. The number of cars on the road were so much less and they looked a little like this - ours did anyway.

Mothers used to stay at home and Dads used to go to work. My Dad had bought a business with his brother and worked long and hard to make it successful. It was an engineering business and I was never really sure exactly what it did, I just knew that it was dirty, greasy work and Dad would come home looking a lot like this - only younger, thinner and with more hair (sorry Dad).

There was none of the wonderful technological gadgets that we have now. When I started grade one
we used a slate and slate pencil. One of the first jobs of the day was to fill up our sponge box with water so we could clean our slates. We didn't graduate to paper and pencils until grade 2 and we didn't get our 'pen licence' until we could prove that we didn't make too many mistakes. We played on concrete and bitumen and there were often cuts that needed stitching and broken limbs from falling off the monkey bars but no parent would have ever dreamt of suing the school. 


I didn't get to see my first computer until grade eleven and didn't get to touch one until third year university. Phones were only mobile if you had a really long cord and if you needed to use one when you were out it there was usually a payphone around and back then there was a lot less vandalism so they usually worked.

We did not have an inside toilet to start with. There was an outhouse at the back of the yard. And there was a rat that lived in our dunny which made me scared to use it at night - it's disconcerting to hear scurrying under your naked, vulnerable buttocks. The dunny men would come once a week, I think, to empty out the tins and back then I thought that would have to be the worst job in the world. I still think that would be the worst job in the world.

Weeks went in definite rhythms. Every day had a purpose. There was washing day and shopping day and cleaning day. Washing day was a big event. Beds got stripped and the lines would be full and flapping under the bright sunshine. We were lucky - we had a Hill's Hoist but the lady up at the end of the street still had a couple of lines which had to be propped up with sticks. We also had quite a modernish washing machine. Unlike my Grandma who still had a mangle to squeeze the water out. We were allowed to help with this sometimes and sometimes little fingers got caught between the rollers.

We got five cents pocket money every week and for that we could get an ice cream (which came as a rectangle between two pieces of wax paper) in a cone and two cents worth of lollies. Surprisingly five cents worth of lollies gave you quite a decent amount.

Health food didn't really exist. We just ate meat and three veg most nights. Sometimes the meat was offal - tripe in white sauce with onions or lambs fry with bacon or steak and kidney pie. Calories weren't counted until I was a teenager but we really didn't need to because walking was our main mode of transport to school, we played really physical games (red rover, letters, elastics or chasey) at lunch and sports practice after school before walking home. 

Sundays were spent at Sunday School and Church. There were plaques on the wall in our church dedicated to ministers. For years I believed they were headstones and that beneath them, in the wall cavity was the bodies. But church wasn't just about being scared - there were the wonderful fellowship teas where people would bring along special dishes to share. They seemed to always be a version of minced beef casserole and were always swimming in grease. There was Girls Brigade too - where you got to learn to march in formation, learn interesting routines with clap sticks and learn to embroider handkerchiefs.

These are just a small smattering of the thoughts and memories that have flitted through my brain today - to write them all would take way too long and probably be way too boring. Really, this post has been for me and I've really enjoyed my walk through my past. That's what happens when you get old, doesn't it? You bang on and on about how good the olden days were and everyone just has to listen politely. I think I'm going to enjoy being old!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Wiser, Not Older

I heard the perfect song for me on the way to the physio this morning - Taylor Swift's 22. 'I don't know about you but I'm feeling 22' - 22, and not the 50 that I've just turned TODAY. Fifty sounds kinda old and I really don't feel an awful lot older than I did in my twenties - wiser maybe, but not older.

50? Me? How did that happen?

So today, because I can't give you all cupcakes, I'd like to share some of the wisdom that I've collected on my way to this venerable age.

1. A sense of humour will get you through the tough times and make the good times even better.

I still think farts are funny. In fact anything to do with body functions can be hilarious. Taking yourself too seriously  can make your life miserable. Being able to laugh at your own idiosyncrasies is important to your mental health. I love that my kids bought me this card and knew that I'd think it was hilarious.

2. Own your crazy. 

I'm totally convinced that all of us have at least a little smidgeon of crazy in them. Some people tuck it down deep in side and it rarely sees the light of day. I like to wear mine as a badge of honour. Yep, I've struggled with anxiety at times through my life. I've had to be wheeled around an airport in a wheelchair because I'd been vomiting because I was so nervous. I've thrown up before races, exams and important sports matches. I've driven with a vomit bucket in my lap to one of my son's athletic events because I was nervous for him. But I've pushed through and done things despite my stupid nerves and this makes small things like being able to fly without the use of drugs something to be proud of.

3. Running makes everything good.

I know I'm mostly preaching to the converted BUT there is very little that running doesn't improve. You sleep better, can eat more, have less stress, meet the world's nicest people, get to travel to interesting places to sweat, have better mental health, get to throw interesting comments (yes, I've just run 36k before breakfast because I'm training for a marathon) into conversations with complete strangers and wear really great shoes that are actually comfortable.

4. Things will get better. 

There have been some times in my life when problems have been so intense that I haven't been able to see past them. Time and patience has generally always gotten me to a better place. And getting through the tough times has taught me lessons in perspective, tolerance, understanding and contentment.

5. Being kind makes the world a better place.

Lending a hand or an ear to someone who's in need. Opening a door for another. Making a meal for someone who's sick. Giving a little bit of yourself gives you so much back.

6. There are worse things in life than stretch marks. 

Being perfect was always my goal and it took me years to realise that it was ridiculously unobtainable and a huge waste of energy. I spent so much time trying to be perfect that I didn't have any fun. If I could have a do-over of my life that's the thing that I'd most like to fix. I didn't know then what I know now - that being a normal, flawed, imperfect person with a little touch of crazy, is way more attractive to other people.

I'm not planning on any big party to celebrate this milestone. I'm going to do what I really enjoy - catch up with my friends over breakfasts and coffees and enjoy their company. If I'm lucky I might manage to stretch to a birthweek instead of just a birthday.

I might not be able to give you a cupcake but at least I can tease you with one.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

What Makes a Great Run?

I had a great run on Saturday.

Great runs have been few and far between in the last couple of years. Don't get me wrong - there have been okay runs and good runs. There have also been some awful runs. Runs where I have considered faking an injury just so the pain would stop. Runs where the only thing that has kept me going was my fierce pride and stubbornness. And sadly, there have been some runs when pride and stubbornness was just not enough and sheer exhaustion made me walk.

So it was exhilarating to have such a good run. And it's encouraging to know that three months of running cream into my arm daily is starting to pay dividends. I'm finally getting some endurance back.

But Saturday's greatness was from more than just the use of performance-enhancing drugs. (I don't consider them performance-enhancing because they're just getting me into the normal range - there's nothing super-human happening here). There were a lot of factors that combined that made it feel so good and they're things that I've learned by trial and error (mostly error because we learn more from our mistakes) over a few decades of running.

1. Fuelling - This started on Friday.  I made sure that my last meal had plenty of complex carbohydrates in the form of brown rice (with a nice chicken yellow curry over the top). The simple carbohydrates that I had afterwards were more for my taste buds and to ensure that food guilt would stop me from piking on the run. I also made sure I was well hydrated. Saturday morning pre-run I had a banana and water and I brought along honey sachets for in-run fuelling.

2. Start out slow - I have sabotaged countless long runs by going too fast at the start. Yesterday we were running at over 6 min/k for the first few kilometres and that's just perfect for me. I got to the 12k mark feeling remarkably fresh. A few months ago running 12k was pretty much my limit.

3. Have entertaining company - There was a lot of banter and even more cheek dished out on Saturday's run. At one stage I even had to smack the coach on the back of the head to bring him back into line. Luckily there were no witnesses (the hand is quicker than the eye) so I guess it never really happened. Being entertained on a long run really makes the kilometres fly by.

4. Run a scenic route - There's nothing less inspiring than having to run where there's no green or blue. By green and blue I mean grass, trees and water. Admittedly the water that we ran next to is more brown than blue but water is water. Seeing wildlife adds a couple of bonus points to a long run. Admiring a duck family or laughing at the antics of a dog who's all kinds of happy for being out on a walk, can really make a run.

5. Run where there's lots of people exercising - It's inspiring to see other people who've gotten out of bed at ridiculous o'clock to sweat. We ran past other runners, cyclists, walkers, rowers and boot-campers.

Most of the group were running 14 kilometres and only a few continued on to either 16 or beyond. I managed to convince my running companion to take a loop through the Gardens instead of running an out and back section. I'm a rebel without a cause inciting my own little mutiny in the quest of a scenic route. This little deviation from the route ended up making the run a little longer but it didn't phase me. The running Gods had smiled on me yesterday and I was able to do the extra kilometre without bargaining, whimpering, pretending I needed to stop for another drink, or fake-pulling a hammy.

Saturday's run wrapped up a really good week. Fifty-seven kilometres over four sessions. It'll be interesting to see how I back up this week.

Does anyone have any other tips on completing a successful long run?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Running - The Gift That Keeps On Giving

It's that time of year again - when I start to hyperventilate when I think of work. It's gone from manageable to how-the-hell-am-I-going-to-get-everything-done-and-still-be-able-to-sleep.

I don't like it when it's this busy.

I don't like it when it's too quiet either but it seems to be the nature of my business. All frantic hysteria for the first few months of the year and then a slow slide to sloth and indolence which I really quite enjoy. I wish the competition organisers would spread out the comps just so I could get a more even level of work.

On Wednesday I got another big order. On top of the other three that I already have. And it mentally tipped me over the edge. I was feeling stressed and harried - totally convinced that I'd never get the orders done in time. And they have to be done in time or little girls may have nothing to wear at their event.

Wednesday is the day when the whole family eat at my parents place so Wednesday I didn't have to cook (it's such a blessing every week to have that day off) but this week there was a lot of talk about my birthday next week. What did I want? (I don't know) What would we eat? (I don't know) How was I going to celebrate? (I don't think I'll have time)

I left there feeling totally frazzled and flustered and NEEDING to run.

So yesterday I was out of bed just after 4:30am and out the door at 5:00. For the first time in days it was dry. Except for the oval that I have to run through at the beginning and the end - that was a total quagmire. There was no beautiful sunrise, just a gradual lightening making silhouettes more distinct and distant objects turn from men back into signs. The river was high and muddy (we've had a LOT of rain) but it was flat and calm.

I ran into the city and around the Botanical Gardens and left all the work behind me. All the stress and anxiety just dropped away. It was like having a mini-holiday.

As usual, as I ran I solved all the world's problems. And most of the answers involved some form of running. How do we solve the North Korean nuclear threat? Put Kim Jong Un on a running program. I'm sure he'd lose that petulant aggression (to say nothing of the puppy fat) if he was running 50k a week. Gang violence? Running of course. And the gangs would have a different arena to show their superiority - a running track. Childhood obesity? Doh, that's a no-brainer.

I even worked out why I end up with a headache every time I run with a cap on (and that's been a lot lately). It had something to do with all the thoughts that crowd my head during the run not being able to be released into the cosmos and making my head swell. It totally made sense around the 12k mark.

Yes, I went a little further than my program dictated yesterday but sometimes the run isn't just to improve times or prepare for a race. Sometimes the run serves a higher purpose - bringing a little dose of sanity into a sometimes crazy life.

And the benefits didn't just stop there. I got through my working day with flying colours. Finished a big cutting job and a costume that had been sitting on my table for nearly a week. Sorted out my plan of attack for the next few days. Rang some clients to come pick up their stuff. And organised my fabric order. The dogs got a walk and the grocery shopping got done. And I slept like a log when my head hit the pillow.

And this is why I will keep running until my body no longer lets me.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Restraint and Control

I haven't talked about my boys in a long time so I thought it was time to do a progeny- based post.

I have three sons, all of whom I'm pretty proud of. The woman that I met in the showers after speed session yesterday can attest to that. There's nothing like a bit of gratuitous boasting while you're naked for strangers to see you for who you really are - a slightly crazed woman who decided to keep humans instead of cats.

I've been banned from saying too much about them now that some of their friends read my blog (in the hope of getting some dirt on them, I suspect). So I've reserved my family stories to my husband (who's stuck with me for life so I get to say what I like AND he generally doesn't read my blog) and my four-legged son who will love me no matter what I write (AND he can't read my blog because he still hasn't worked out how to use the mouse without a prehensile thumb).

One of my sons recently had to undergo a physical for his work. He wasn't too concerned about it EXCEPT that he was going to have to do a urine test. He'd heard from his mates that he may have to do the test with someone watching and was worried that this might cause performance anxiety.

So to overcome any possible issues he decided to make sure he was really well hydrated before he went. I thought this was a really good idea until I remembered when I'd had to have an ultrasound during my first pregnancy.

I'd been told to drink two liters in the three hours before my appointment. And I'd dutifully done that only to arrive at the clinic almost sweating with the strain of my distended bladder. This had happened to my sister as well and she'd gotten to the point where there was just no holding it in so she'd asked to use the toilet. The ultrasound technician had said that yes, she could go but to only let out a little bit. Seriously, once you've reached that point of no return there is absolutely no way that you're going to be able to hold back the tide. And the fun wasn't over once they'd finished the ultrasound. All that water caused a water diuresis which meant that the rest of the day was spent rushing to the toilet.

I didn't want to worry him even more so I didn't share those stories with him (kind, aren't I?) and he went off to his appointment oblivious but fairly confident that he'd be able to perform when the time came. He definitely needed to go once they handed him the little sample pot. Then he was given his instructions. He wasn't to over-fill the pot. He wasn't to use the toilet afterwards. And the cubicle door had to stay open. So effectively he had to stem the tide while being watched. And the tide was high.

I'm happy to say that my son did exactly what he was asked. He showed control and restraint. More restraint and control than I'd be able to show. And that's why I'm proudly boasting about my boy for all the world to read. (And also why I was banned from mentioning his name).

Back to my wardrobe issue of the other day. I dealt with the built-ins just as I'd promised. A pair of scissors and some careful snipping and I'll never have to endure that pain again. And when I'd removed them I compared them to a pair of normal size 10 undies. 

I have no idea what the manufacturer was thinking. They are more than two inches wider than a regular pair. No wonder I has having problems. No wonder they felt like they were bloomers. Did they put the siz 18 undies in the size 10 shorts?  Makes no sense to me.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Wardrobe Malfunction Number 2 (Or The Perils of Built-in Undies)

My last post was about weird injuries that have happened to me in the commission of my work in a very sedentary job.

This post is about weird running injuries. Particularly the weird running injury that had me crying like a girl in the shower yesterday.

I don't believe there is anything wrong with crying like a girl most of the time. I'm a girl and sometimes we cry. A lot of the time we have reason to cry - like when we read read cute, touching stories about dogs, watch Hallmark card ads and see the emotion of an athlete on the dais receiving their medal and listening to their national anthem. But sometimes there's no reason. And that's what crying like a girl is all about.

Yesterday I did my long run. I was a bit nervous about this run. I get nervous about a lot of runs since I've been sick. I still don't totally trust my body and I just don't know how far I can push without breaking it. I like to pretend that I still believe that I'm unbreakable but in the wee small hours of the night when all I have to keep me company are my thoughts, little trickles of doubt flood in. My program had me down for a 20k run but I'd had a gruelling 20k two weeks before and missed the one last week so I was feeling particularly doubtful about my abilities.

I turned up at the run knowing that I could manage 12k and hoping that I could do 16k but also knowing that I had to keep the pace really moderate (aka slow) to give myself a chance to finish it with grace and dignity. It's been raining for most of the week and the forecast was saying that it would rain again so it was no surprise that it started to bucket down on us not long after we started. No worries, at least it was cool.

It was at about the 5k mark that I noticed something unpleasant and painful was happening in my undercarriage.

I've posted about my fear of wardrobe malfunction while wearing shorts with the built-in undies and I was wearing just such a pair of shorts yesterday. The undies that are provided don't exactly fit the way my regular, every-day undies fit. They're a little more like old-fashioned bloomers that only seem to touch you on your waist and around the tops of your legs. The rest of them are generously proportioned unlike my undies which lovingly caress and cling and kinda hold you in. But tip a bucket of water or two on the built-in undies and they will start to caress and cling too and unfortunately some of that clinging involved a vice-like grip on my short and curlies.

I tried to subtly disengage the death grip whilst still maintaining rhythm and conversation. The elastic pick manoeuvre had little effect. So I left it another kilometre before trying the pick, pull and wriggle technique. When I released said elastic I realised that the tugging, if anything had become worse. It felt a little like I was giving myself a Brazilian, one clump of hair at a time. I was just glad I was running in rain so if a tear of pain just happened to trickle down my face, no one would notice.

Nice to know that this type of wardrobe malfunction happens even to the greats of sport.

Over and over I tried to free myself from this painful entanglement and over and over I failed until eventually I gave up and accepted that the rest of the run would be uncomfortable. But I must say that this minor catastrophe had provided a good distraction from the actual running pain and the run that was originally going to be 12k had stretched past 16 to 18k. One triumph at least.

It was with joyful anticipation that I finally stripped off to have my shower. Finally, the pain was gone. Or at least it was until I actually got under the warm stream. The pain I'd felt before was nothing like that caused by a little soap and water. I spent the rest of the day walking around like I'd been droving sheep on a bony Brumby without a saddle for a week.

Yes, some of you will think I had every reason to cry therefore it would not be crying like a girl. But the very nature of running involves pain or at least discomfort. We runners must have a masochistic streak because we push ourselves to the point of pain regularly and come back eagerly for more. It's something we do because we like it so it shouldn't be the source of tears.

I've come up with a way to never have this happen again.

These are to cut the liners out of the shorts - nothing more.

No longer will I be dictated to by the whimsy of sportswear manufacturers. This girl will be choosing her own running undergarments from now on.