Thursday, August 29, 2013

Spring Has Sprung

I did skip yesterday's run. Happily. Without guilt. Knowing it was the best thing that I could do for myself and my training.

Actually, I was getting a bit freaked because I'd pulled up so tired from the weekend. I still have fairly fresh memories of last year - feeling exhausted and not being able to recover after even short, easy runs. I'm terrified of going back there so that was why it was easy to miss just one run.

Intellectually I knew that it was fair and reasonable to be feeling tired. I'd run a good, hard race after no taper and after running some of my longest mileage weeks ever, so fatigue is a natural outcome. And at my age recovery is slower. But emotionally all I could think of was last year and how long it took me to feel normal again. It made me question the wisdom of doing a half marathon right at this point of marathon training.

But today I woke up and felt good. Normal. Energetic. Ready to run 32k tomorrow morning.

I felt good enough to take the dogs on a walk. Yes, everyone benefits from me having a bit of time off running. We got to sniff at all the interesting posts and patches of grass. We got to smell the jasmine that's starting to flower. We got to see that our local bag man has been moved on and his bags cleaned away. And we got to see this.

Now I understand why the drake has been so aggressive the last couple of times I've walked/run through that park. Looks to me like spring has sprung.

And talking about happy families, I just wanted to share some lovely photos of mine.

Sam and Hannah

Josh and Serena

Luke and Becky
I put a new app on my phone and was playing around with it the other night and it got me thinking about how blessed I am that I have these lovely girls in my life. When I had my third son I was a bit sad that I didn't have a daughter and that when my sons found girlfriends I'd lose them just a little. But it certainly hasn't been the case. I feel like I've gained three daughters (and without having to go through those harrowing puberty years). And after having such a testosterone-dominated household it's so refreshing to find make up and hair pins and smell perfume in the house.

Isn't it great when life turns out better than you'd expected?!                             

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Post-Race Thoughts

I'm a bit tired.

Who'd have thought that running your fastest half marathon in five years and your third fastest ever would make you a bit tired? Sometimes I wish I still had the bounce-back ability of a twenty-something year old. But very few fifty year olds do.

I do, however, have a secret weapon. And it's not my testosterone cream. That only makes me normal - not super-human.

My secret weapon is experience and patience. And my experience is telling me that I need to take it easy this week. My patience means that I can ignore the numbers on my training program if my body's telling me that a bit of extra rest is necessary.

I went to speed session yesterday knowing that I wasn't going to be feeling my most bouncy. And I wasn't. My hamstrings were tight. My quads were tight. My neck and shoulders were tight. But I made it through the session way better than I'd expected and even ran the fastest kilometre that I've run in a couple of years.

But today my body is tired and I'm looking at tomorrow's 16k and wondering what is the most prudent thing to do. My options - run the 16k very relaxed, cut it back to 10 or 12 OR (and this is a legitimate training session) sleep in.

Rest is one of the most important training tools of any athlete. It's when we consolidate all of the training that we do. Our muscles repair themselves and get stronger when we rest and I'm pretty sure that's what my body's crying out for today.

Yes, I know that there's only about 6 weeks till my marathon BUT it's better to have an extra rest day now than to drag through 6 weeks of training feeling exhausted.

So instead of talking about running today I'm going to write a glowing post on my much-maligned husband. Yes, I'm the one who does the maligning but this week he's in my good books so I thought I'd better actually write something nice about him for a change.

He was the most awesome support team for me on the weekend. Anything I wanted, he did. It was like having a not-so-evil minion. He carried my stuff for me. He woke up at a ridiculously early hour for me. He walked kilometres on the course so he could cheer me on. And he laughed at all my jokes.

He was so well behaved that I decided he needed a reward. So Sunday after the race I took him to the movies to watch sci-fi (believe me, that was a sacrifice), took him for ice cream (okay, that was probably more for me than him) and then I let him eat beans for breakfast the next day even though I knew we'd be locked in a car together for the next couple of hours.

And that, my friends, is the secret to a happy marriage. Treat him mean and keep him keen. And then surprise him with occasional acts of kindness.

Works for me.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Sunshine Coast Half Marathon

Why is it just so hard to sleep the night before a race???

The answer is in the question. It's all those question marks. How has my training been going? Was I consistent enough? Did I work hard enough? Will I sleep through my alarm? Will I choose the wrong portaloo queue? Will my stomach behave itself? What pace should I go out at? If I pick the wrong pace will I die towards the end? How much am I willing to hurt? How tough am I?

I did my last half marathon before Melbourne yesterday and I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I've been doing some big mileage weeks so I was coming into the race without a taper and I'd never run this event before so I wasn't sure about the course or how I'd cope with doing a double-lap.

We left on Saturday and arrived at the Sunshine Coast to this.

We have such hideous weather in winter in Queensland. Wished I'd brought my bathers.
 And this at the place we were staying at.

I hadn't realised that our accommodation was as close to the start as it was. Just a few hundred metres up the only hill on the course. The receptionist was lovely. She drew me a map of the course and wished me good luck. She was going to be there in the morning supporting her husband in the same race.

There were no nerves on Saturday. I hadn't been thinking about the race much and certainly wasn't putting any pressure on myself. I was a little bit worried about the hill but because it was at the beginning of the race I was planning to just take it easy and use it as my warm up. And besides, the salesgirl at the shop I bought a t-shirt from (because I'd packed totally the wrong clothes for the weather) told me that I'd hardly even notice it with the excitement at the start.

But even though there was no nerves, I didn't sleep well. All those pesky questions swirling in my brain. And no answers to any of them.

Iven and I were out the door the next morning just before 5:20am. It was dark and cool but the skies were just starting to lighten.

I found Coach Chris. I found the shortest but slowest moving toilet queue. Then I tried to get a good position in the buzzing throng of runners. (Which leads me to ponder the question - just what is the collective noun for a group of runners? I would have said stampede but that only seems appropriate once the gun goes off). A blessedly short wait and then we were off.

The salesgirl turned out to be right. The hill really wasn't that bad. I was just running comfortably like I'd planned to (and not like I'd run in my last half at Redcliffe, where I'd gone out way too hard and then died for the last 5k). We ran up and over it and as soon as we got to the bottom we u-turned and ran up and over it again. And that was it - all the hills done in the first kilometre and a half. My first k ticked over at 5:19 and the second (which included a nice downhill) and less manoeuvring around slower runners, was 4:58. It was on par with what I'd run at Redcliffe which worried me a little but I was feeling okay so I tried to quash the worry and go with how I was feeling.

Twenty one kilometres is a long way. Honestly, most days I wouldn't even drive that far. Running that far requires patience and persistence. There's a lot of time to talk to yourself - in your head, not out loud because that would make you look like a crazy person and a lot of the general public consider running that far an act of lunacy in itself. My self-talk was about running relaxed, keeping the pace controlled, keeping my shoulders down, not frowning, staying positive, running tall. 

You'd think it would get a bit boring but there were plenty of distractions - watching the marathon runners coming the other direction, the people staring at us from the cafes, the excited dog who seemed like he just wanted to join in. And then there was my husband (who has a reputation for totally missing me in races) at the 6 or 7k mark waving my jumper and telling me I was looking good. A runner next to me remarked that it was just the first lap and there was plenty of time for that to change.

The kilometres ticked over and I was happy with the consistency of my pacing - 4:57. 5:00, 4:58. 5:00, 4:55, 4:59, 5:00, 5:00, 5:01. We turned somewhere around the 12k mark to do the out and back again and I was still feeling okay but still not totally trusting that I'd be able to stay at this pace. 

I had also been a little concerned about how I'd react to doing a double lap. Would I get to the start of the second lap and just want to stop? Not at all! It was great to see our little band of supporters cheering me on and it gave me a lift. And I still kept up the pace - 5:03, 4:57, 5:00, 4:58, 5:03, 5:04. It was around my 18th kilometre that I started to get tired. I had done the last turn around and was on the way back to the finish line but there was still a little way to go. 5:07 became 5:06 then 5:14. 

It was then that I finally let myself look at the total time on my Garmin. I had about a kilometre to go and it was reading 1:41. I was going to go faster than I had at Redcliffe! The last kilometre was 5:10 and then it was a sprint to the line - a slowish sprint.

I stopped my watch. Over two minutes faster than my last one.
My third fastest half marathon time and my fastest in five years.
How great do you feel when you surpass your expectations? How amazing is it to run this well after being sick for so long? Coach Chris commented that my smile was huge when I got back to the group and I swear it stayed that way for the rest of the day.

I wasn't the only one to have a good race. There were two others from the squad who ran the half and both ran a PB. The 10k runners ran a lot later and it had really heated up so the conditions weren't quite as conducive to fast times. But there were still a lot of happy, smiling people. 

The GFRS contingent.
Finisher's shirt and medal
There were only a couple of negatives from the weekend. The water at the drink stations were really heavily chlorinated so I stopped drinking part way into the second lap and ended up a little dehydrated and headachey later in the day. The ice cream shop that I'd planned to go to for my post-run treat was shut! Who closes an ice cream shop at the beach on a warm day when there's a big event on?? I did get some ice cream but it wasn't as good as the other place. And my aim was totally off when I tried to toss a half-full cup of water into the garbage bag a volunteer was holding open. She ended up wearing most of the water. Oops.

I slept like a log last night. All the questions from the previous night had been answered to my satisfaction. Things are looking good for Melbourne.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pass and Fail

I wanted to check in and let you know how I was going with my new and better habits (ie moving more during the day and eating less sugar.)

I'll start with the first - moving more. And I'm starting with it because it's been a stellar success with really not too much effort (apart from the effort of being on my feet and walking rather than rolling around the room.) I've spent a lot more time standing rather than sitting to cut out and honestly, it's a much more effective way to work.

While I was sitting down I think I worked a bit slower. I had to keep rearranging the fabric to suit me rather than rearranging me to suit the fabric. I haven't accidentally rolled over Toby's tail with my chair all week - probably because I'm actually getting up off the chair to walk and get what I need. And I've been making extra trips upstairs to get stuff that I need. So if I was to grade myself on this week's performance, I'd give myself an A+++ (because an A+ just doesn't seem enough for how awesome I was).

And as far as the sugar goes - well, I'd definitely have to give myself a D- there. Yes, I'm walking upstairs more to get stuff that I need but it seems that the things I most need (and yes, it seemed like a need at the time) was lollies. (Or sweets. Or jubes. For those of you who don't speak Australian). I said I wasn't very good at the dietary denial thing.

I think a lot of my problem stems back to my Garmin. That's right - I'm blaming a watch for my lack of self-control. But my Garmin has been giving me permission to eat more. I do a run and after the run all the data spews onto my computer and all I see is how many calories I've burnt. And my mind immediately translates those calories into a big flashing 'all you can eat' sign.

Of course I'm supposed to be eating a little more now that I'm running a lot more. But I really don't think that the extra calories should all be refined sugar. I don't even like how my body feels after I've eaten a whole lot of sugar - my heart pounds and I feel a bit sick. But somehow I find it hard to stop. A little like Mr Creosote on Monty Python's Meaning of Life.

I lasted a whole day trying to be super-restrained. And on that day my food choices were pretty impressive. When I wanted just a little more after my salad and chicken lunch, I chose an apple. And I made sure to brush my teeth early that night so I wouldn't be tempted to snack late. The next day was a total bust!

 My last resort will be to make sure I don't have any lollies in the house because I can't eat them if they're not here.

But even if I do manage to rein in my sugar intake I will NEVER make a sugar-free cupcake. I just don't see the point.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Sitting is the new smoking.

I've been hearing about this for a while now but I'm good at ignoring stuff that I don't want to hear. I'm comfortable sticking my head in the sand. Especially when it means that I won't have to change what I'm doing.

Unfortunately the article in Runner's World was one that I couldn't ignore. I wanted to believe that my few hours of running every week was enough to allow me to sit on my butt for the rest of the day. But the article was quite clear - don't think that exercising for an hour or so a day will wipe out the negative effects of sitting down for all those other hours.

I have a very sedentary job. I sit and sew or cut out fabric all day. A few years ago I was having back issues and standing up at a low table cutting out just aggravated them. Sitting down didn't. So I'd sit down to do my cutting out. Once I got sick I didn't have the energy to stand most of the day so I'd alternate between sitting down and lying on the bed to get enough energy to see me through the rest of the day.

Effectively it's like I've been a chain smoker for a decade. But without the bad breath or the nicotine stains on my fingers or the hacking smokers cough.

One of the many reasons that I run is because there's a history of heart disease in the family. My Dad had a heart attack in his 30s and both my maternal and paternal grandfathers had heart attacks in their 70s. I don't have a great pedigree for heart health so since my late teens I've been pretty diligent about doing cardio exercise. I've run, walked, gone to the gym (back in the 80s in the fluoro g-string era) and I'm back to running again. But I obviously haven't been doing enough.

So this week (I read the article on the weekend) I've been very diligent about moving more when I'm working. I've been standing rather than sitting. Walking to choose fabric rather than propelling myself around the room on my stool on wheels - which is probably safer for the dogs who like to sleep on the workroom floor. And I've been making extra trips up and down the stairs to do little chores when I think of them rather than saving them up to do in one hit.

And I've been feeling very virtuous about making these positive changes. I'm actually feeling better at the end of the day than when I've spent most of it warming a seat. My legs don't feel as stiff and my hip flexors are definitely looser. And strangely, I feel more energetic.

Then #2 son Josh sent me this link about the evils of sugar. Yes I know sugar isn't good for me. But again I kinda hoped that running would negate any nasty effects. And I had also hoped that training for a marathon would give me carte blanche to eat as much as I wanted (cause I have a bit of a sweet tooth). But if I do eat too much sugar, again I'm risking cardio-vascular disease and even my mental health. And let's be honest, sometimes that can be tenuous even without the addition of that delicious, sweet poison.

Now I'm not feeling quite so virtuous. Looks like there are other changes that I have to make.

Unfortunately I'm not that great about denying myself altogether. If I tell myself I'm not allowed to eat something then I want it all the more and end up eating way too much of it. So my plan is to cut back on those extra sweet treats that had crept into my diet and substitute them with something with more nutritional value but let myself have something sweet with my cup of tea after dinner (then brush my teeth so I'm not tempted to have more).

Ah for my perfect world where sugar would be a health food, the weather would always be perfect for running and no undies caused chafing ever.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Surviving 32 Kilometres.

I've just wrapped up my biggest running week in over three years. 73 kilometres. And that doesn't include the few kilometres that I ran with the dogs.

I'm amazed that I can run that far. Amazed and proud and relieved and joyful. Such a far cry to this time last year when I hadn't run a 20k long run all year and was doubting my ability to run the half in Melbourne.

My last run of the week was Saturday's long slow run - 32k.

I'd forgotten just how far 32k is. And I'd forgotten how long it takes (just over 3 hours last Saturday). And I'd forgotten just how many bits of your body will hurt at the end of it. So for those of you who've also forgotten and need a reminder or those of you who have never gone that far and would like some forewarning, here's some thoughts.

Wear comfy gear. I thought that I was on Saturday but it turns out that my choice in undies wasn't the best. Just because a pair is comfy for 20k doesn't mean that they won't bite you by 30. Elastic and sweat and friction can create quite a rope-burn effect in that third hour and the first realisation you'll have of it will probably be when you hop under the shower. But after talking to my sister I'm grateful that I never took up surf boat rowing.

All that fabric shoved up a narrow little crack can cause a case of chafing from hell. And when you add salt water to the mix ... ouch!

There are bits of you that will hurt by the end - calves, hips, shoulders and feet. Honestly, if most bits of your body aren't hurting there's something wrong. But it's nothing that a little bit of compression can't help. Unfortunately putting on compression gear after you've run that far can be another feat of endurance in itself. It took me longer to put on my compression socks than it did for Iven to go to the toilet. Enough said.

Food will become very important to you. This starts the night before the run. You have to have enough carbs in your system to give you a fighting chance of making it to the end. Then in the morning you need to have a little top up. I've been adding some dried fruits and nuts to my usual banana and that seems to work okay for me. Then I take Capilano Honey Shots while I'm out on the run. 

But the food fest doesn't stop there. You need to keep refuelling for the rest of the day. And it's not just carbs that need to go back in. Protein is really important after long runs to rebuild muscle so my usual post-long run breakfast is two poached eggs on multigrain toast. Yum!

Running with friends can make those long distances bearable - even fun. We had a small crew of seven that set out at 4:00am on Saturday. Then at about the 2/3 mark we linked up with a few others from the squad. I'm finding that the ridiculously early hour that we start is quite a magical time to run (even if it's not a magical time to get out of bed). The streets are almost deserted and the only other people out are other crazies like you or people not yet home after a night out OR couples having an intimate moment in a public place. No, we couldn't see what was happening in the Southbank pool but we certainly could hear it.

You will probably need a nap at some stage in Saturday. The mileage alone is enough to make you want to hit the hay but add in the super-early start and I can almost guarantee that it won't be just a 20 minute lie down. I managed a good two hours of drool on the pillow deep sleep and still didn't have any problem getting to sleep that night.

This week's going to be a bit lighter. I've got the small matter of a half marathon to do on Sunday. After 32k, 21.1 is going to seem kinda short.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Florence Nightingale I'm Not.

I survived!

I'm not talking about my latest running expeditions. As challenging as they can sometimes be, I'm managing to tick them off my program without any real problems. My knee (ITB niggles) seems to have responded to my new-found diligence in doing my exercises. And I'm recovering well between sessions. Yay me!

No, what I'm talking about is the love of my life's latest malady. Poor Iven had a sore back.

This is not a new thing for Iven. He has had a history of back problems and has been given strengthening and stretching exercises to help keep it pain-free. The only problem is that he only ever does the exercises when he's in pain. When it's not hurting he tends to forget. So it's a cycle of pain, do the exercises, no pain, don't exercise.

I used to be sympathetic but now, not so much. From my morally superior pedestal (where I do the exercises I need to in order to delay the onset of rigor mortis) I tend to give him a dose of you-should-have-been-doing-your-exercises and I-told-you-so. And then I escape down to my workroom so I don't have to listen to a man in the throws of agony. But I'm not totally heartless. If he gets too loud and is in danger of disturbing the neighbours I'll throw him a couple of pain-killers from the safety of the kitchen and hope that they land close to him.

But that wasn't Iven's only complaint. He managed to get a cold aka the dreaded Man Flu.

I did feel a little bit sorry for him. And then I felt sorry for myself because a sore back means that I have to do a few extras like walking the dogs (not what I'd planned for in the midst of marathon training) and all the fruit and vegie shopping (lugging enough green groceries for a family of five for a week is challenging for a woman who has a runner's upper body strength). The cold/man flu means that I have a man, who's known for his ability to wake the dead with his snoring with the added challenge of congested airways, next to me in bed.

But worst of all he had to stay home for over a week!!

I know I live with a family and chose to have that family. And I happily let them have their girlfriends over (heaven knows that we need to redress the testosterone-oestrogen imbalance). But the honest truth is that I like I like having the house to myself. I like my alone time. I like not having to talk to anyone but the dog (yes, I'm one of 'those' pet owners) for a few hours every week.

On Monday, his first day back at work, I finally got my alone time. It was wonderful! I'm incredibly productive if I'm not being constantly interrupted. And since then I've had a few more hours of alone time - feeling like I'm on an even keel again. Which is good because I had to go brave the grocery store today - that grocery store that moved and which I've yet to learn where all my usual purchases are. When I got to the checkout I asked Jenny (yes, my checkout chick and I are on a first-name basis) how she was doing. She wasn't doing so well. Her husband has a sore back and is (and I quote) 'on the endangered species list' like the moth on my ceiling the other night.

Just wanted to leave you with a picture that made me smile the other night. It was sent by one of my friends with Mmm being the only clue. Took me a while to realise that they'd enjoyed my cake. That makes me happy!

I'm glad I'm not the only one.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Adventures in Pink

Confession time again.

I bought another pair of running shoes.

That makes my total for the last two months three pairs.

I'm a shameless shoe-hussy. I'd sell my soul for happy feet. Or should I have said sole? I don't like getting out of bed the day after a long run and hobbling like an old lady. I don't like that exquisite pain when my poor little size 9.5ers have to bear the brunt of my full body weight. And I don't like that feeling to linger from one run to the next.

I've been wearing Mizuno Wave Riders for three or four years now and they've serve me well but somewhere along the line my feet have fallen out of love with them. It could be that the natural padding in my feet has deteriorated as all things do with age. Or it might be that the new and improved version just doesn't work for me. (Note to Mizuno - stop playing around with perfectly good shoes to try and improve what's already fine.)

After last week's 28k I knew that I was going to have to make a shift if I'm going to cope with those 30+k runs in my near future so I bit the bullet and bought these ...

Pretty, aren't they?!!

They were delivered to my door on Thursday night (thanks Coach Chris) for a couple of cupcakes and some cash and with a warning that I'd be foolhardy in the extreme if I wore them for Saturday's long run. 

All of you runners out there will know that it's incredibly hard to resist the lure of new shoes. They seem to have magical properties which convince you that you will run faster with less effort and way more style. That you will be transformed from dancing hippo to gazelle-like Kenyan. And, frankly, these powers are all the greater if the shoes are fluoro pink with sparkly bits. The only way they could be better is if they had little lights that twinkled every time you took a step. (Note to Brooks - light-up shoes don't just appeal to the under fives of this world)

Miraculously, I listened to Coach Chris for a change. I wouldn't have if they were the Wave Riders because I've never had issues with them straight out of the box. But I haven't worn Brooks for a couple of years now and I didn't want to risk blisters on a 28k run. No, I used every ounce of self-restraint (which would account for me being unable to resist the chocolate I'd hidden in the top of the pantry) to leave them till Sunday's run.

I chose my wardrobe carefully for Sunday. Black shorts with pink piping, purple bra with pink top-stitching and pink and grey singlet. Even the socks and undies had a bit of pink on them. And at 3:20pm we headed out on our first adventure together.

And it turned out to be quite the adventure. That can happen if you only have a general idea of where you're going. The plan was to run over the river into Chelmer then follow the river loosely to get to the tennis centre at Tennyson and from there make my way to the Brisbane Corso till I got to the Eleanor Schonnell Bridge at the University of Queensland. And I had to get there by 5:00pm to watch my son play football.

I know the first part of that run up to the tennis centre part. But I haven't run the Brisbane Corso for a couple of years and even then it was with the group so let's just say that the details were a bit hazy and thus the adventure began. 

I'll admit to making a couple of mistakes. The first was looking up the route at home then deciding to throw that one out the window and freewheel it. (I just looked up the Urban Dictionary to see if I was using that expression correctly and I'd just like to say that I'm using it in the context of being free of restraints or rules NOT in the context of riding a unicycle while wearing a skirt and going commando).

My other mistake was to assume that any cyclist wearing lycra and clip-ins over that side of the river would be heading towards the Corso. Or that I could hope to keep up with any cyclist. 

I may have made a few wrong turns. I'd like to think that I was taking the scenic route. And that wouldn't have been a problem if I (a) didn't have any time constraints and (b) hadn't needed to make an unscheduled toilet stop. I knew there was a loo in the park on the Corso but I didn't have any idea how far away that was. And that's when I remembered that I had an app on my phone which shows where all the public toilets are and how far away they are. I also have Google maps on my phone which I could have used to get direction from when I first got lost but I like to live by the 'she'll be right' motto (unless it comes to needing toilets in pretty suburban areas that have nowhere to hide) and fumble through as best I can.

There was some walking involved when I found that the toilet was over a kilometre away. And then there was internal rejoicing when the distance proved to be less than expected. I looked at my watch when I got started again and knew that if I pushed it a little I'd make kick off.

And I did! Albeit after running across the bridge on the cyclist-only side with Pink singing in my ear about not wanting to be a stupid girl. Hey, I didn't mean to be a stupid girl either but somewhere along the path I'd missed a vital sign and once I'd gotten onto the bridge I wasn't turning back. Don't judge me Pink!

And the shoes? I think I'm going to like them. I'm not totally sure because me feet were already sore from the day before so it wasn't the best first test. And I'm glad that I listened to my Coach because there was a little hot spot on my left heel which would have been a blister had I run too much longer. Y

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Parenting Weapon Fail

After my 'near death' experience the other night I'd like to report that I'm feeling fine and fighting fit again. I'm pretty sure it was viral gastritis and apart from having to miss a run yesterday because of a killer headache, it hasn't impacted my training. I'll be lining up again tomorrow morning at 4:00 for my next 28k adventure.

So onto more important matters - like parenting.

I've been a parent for a really long time now. Nearly as long as I've been a married woman (but not quite so you can get your collective minds out of the gutter - I was a good girl). And for all of you out there contemplating parenthood I'd like to share a little of my wisdom.

There are certain skills that one must possess if one is to be a successful parent. You must be able to provide physically for the needs of your offspring - feed, water, clothe and shelter them. That's the obvious and fairly easy part. Then you also must provide the emotional stuff and the discipline so they won't become psychopathic serial murderers who will practise on you before heading out into the general population.

Most children like to test their parents so it's really important to nurture stubborn self-centredness (in yourself, not them) as a personal trait. I find that obsessed runners are naturally imbued with this characteristic so we can generally out-last a two year old shopping centre tantrum (unless we've just completed a 20k run after a night of broken sleep and our defences are a bit down).

It's also important to be able to emotionally blackmail your kids. This is the fun part of parenting - when you get them to do something that they don't want to with the power of a few words. As an ambitious Little Athletics mother, I used to manage to get the kids to win either gold or silver for their age groups even if they weren't the most talented athlete by ensuring that they were there every week. If they had a conflicting birthday party I'd say that it was fine for them to go but they probably wouldn't end up getting a medal at the end of the season and surely it was better to miss out on a silly old birthday party to bring home the bling. It usually worked and taught the kids valuable lessons like prioritising and delayed gratification. And it saved me heaps of money on birthday gifts. It was win-win!

You also need to know how to bend the truth - to just give them enough or totally fallacious information so they'll stop annoying you. I used to think that I was good at this.

The other day Josh (#2 son) found out he was expecting imminent arrival of a phone he'd ordered. Josh hasn't had much luck with phones of late and was actually without for over a fortnight before he gave in and bought yet another one. Of course he was excited to know that his time in the communication wilderness was soon to be over.

He went off to work having informed his father and I to expect the delivery soon and to let him know when it arrived. But it wasn't long before messages started arriving (he'd REALLY missed having a phone).

The first message just asked if it had arrived. I said no but would let him know as soon as it arrived.

Then an hour or so later ...

My response that Fed Ex didn't arrive till late afternoon was a total, out-and-out lie. But it was a lie with noble intentions. And of course my intention was not to have to answer the same question hourly for the next four or five hours. Yes, I'll admit it was self-serving. And years ago it would have worked. But Josh is 24 now and you can't pull the wool over a 24 year old's eyes like you can a 10 year old, as you can see from his response.

Suspicion and distrust! And his instincts were 100% correct. I'm not sure if I'm sad (that I no longer have the upper hand in matters of psychological warfare) or proud (that my baby is street-wise and can be let out into the world safe from those who would want to take advantage of him).

That's one weapon gone from my arsenal. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Thought I Was Going To Die Last Night But I'm Better Now

It's funny how some days go. One minute you're just getting on with your day, ticking off all the things that have to be done (and some extras that hadn't even been on the list) and the next minute you're curled up in a foetal position wondering whether you should call 000 and go to hospital.

That's pretty much how my day went yesterday. I woke up feeling normal. (Tired, certainly - but it was just after 4:30am and who doesn't feel tired then?) I went to speed session feeling normal.(And cranked out some pretty slick, for me 1k reps.) I had breakfast with my posse feeling normal (actually I was feeling pretty good - happy with the session and enjoying the company). Then I worked till five still feeling normal. 

So far, so good. Pretty average Tuesday. The only thing that was a little out of the ordinary was that Iven was home from work (as he's been for a week) with a bad back. That means that the dogs have been missing out on walks. I knew Toby was really needing one yesterday - he kept bringing me his ball while I was working, trying to get me to play with him. 

Can we please play?
How many more bikinis do you have to cut? 
So I did as much food prep as I needed to and left Iven in charge of cooking the chicken while I took the dogs for a walk. I don't often do this because Iven tends to get distracted mid-cook by the bright lights of the television and sometimes our meals end up a little (how do I put this kindly?) caramelised. We've not had a kitchen fire yet but it's one of my greatest fears. And no - I'm not a control freak ... much.

Our walk was great. My legs had been tired from the morning's session but didn't take long to warm up and then going for a gentle jog seemed to be a good option - we could have our exercise but get it done quicker. And honestly, when one of your dogs has only very short little legs, you really do have to go at a very slow pace. Add in sniff and pee stops and it was probably the perfect recovery run.

I had dinner. Watched some TV. Then off to bed by 9:30 to read till my eyes shut. I turned the light off and started to drift off but was a bit uncomfortable so rolled over. And that's when it struck.

A pain in my back. No, it was in my chest. Or was it my stomach? No definitely my chest. Referred pain from my back? I've pulled a muscle in my upper back. Or I've slipped a disc. Actually, no, it's my chest - I think I'm having a heart attack. Heart attacks are different in women. Sometimes all you feel is nausea. Ughh - I feel nauseated. I think I'm going to throw up. No, it's the other end. Either way I have to get to the toilet. Do I sit or do I crouch over the bowl? Sit first then crouch? Or the other way round?

There's nothing worse than having to make that decision. Luckily I chose the right order but unluckily it did mean that I was having to stare into what I'd just evacuated while projectile vomiting what had been a delicious meal a couple of hours ago. And the pain just didn't let up. I managed to stumble out to the laundry to get a bucket so I could be sick from the comfort of my warm bed. I must have looked pretty awful because Iven dragged himself away from the television and was looking quite concerned.

I still wasn't convinced that it wasn't a heart attack because
a. nausea and vomiting can be a sign of impending cardiac misadventure
b. Iven thought that my skin was clammy
c. there is a history of heart disease in the family
d. I tend to leap to the WCS (worst case scenario) and if it wasn't a heart attack it was probably a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm.

A quick check of my pulse reassured me that my heart was fine. It was plodding away at its usual 54 beats per minute.

I lay there moaning and groaning in the foetal position for the next couple of hours. Iven got me a hot pack to help with the pain (maybe wouldn't have helped much if I really had been having a heart attack) then he drifted off to sleep in the prone position which meant that he was snoring - insult to injury!

I'd decided by now that it was probably either food poisoning (I HAD left Iven in charge of the chicken) or a tummy bug. I was really hoping that it was the latter because we didn't have enough buckets for the former and I certainly didn't want to have to queue for the loo. But the only other trip to the toilet was by poor Serena. I say poor because I hadn't been too meticulous in checking that the toilet had flushed away the evidence of my misfortune.

And while I was lying there, all I could think of was how this was going to impact my training. Was I going to be throwing up all night and the next day too? Would I have to miss my 16k on Thursday or just cut it back to 10 or 12? Would I be still feeling weak by Saturday and have to miss the long run? I didn't want to miss the 28k because I'm pretty sure that next week's run will be 32k and I really didn't want to have to jump up to that distance without consolidating with another 28.

By midnight the pain had settled enough for me to go to sleep and I stayed that way till eight this morning. And when I woke up it was like it had never happened - apart from having a bucket next to my bed. So I won't have to miss Thursday's or Saturday's run and my training will still be on track. And, even better, I didn't get blamed for the unfortunate state of the toilet. Serena thought it was all Josh's fault! Sorry Josh.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Weekend Full Of Happy

I've spent a lot of time over the last few years thinking about happiness. I've always thought that I was a fairly happy person. Not necessarily in an effusive, loud, in-your-face type way - more in the quietly-content-with-my-life kind of way. Life has been fairly good to me and I really have had no reason to be unhappy.

And then I had a run of, what I refer to as 'Job' years. 

If you spent a lot of your youth at Sunday School like I did you'll know what I'm referring to. Job was an Old Testament character who had been just going along living his life when he got in the middle of something between God and Satan and ended up having trial after trial happen. Sickness, deaths, and a range of other problems until he cursed the day that he was born.

Okay, I certainly haven't had it as bad as that but the last five years have had their share of road bumps that have put a dent in my happiness quotient and made me really question what it takes to be a happy person.

What I've come up with is that happiness is often an attitude. Looking at the positives in situations rather than focussing on the negatives. Appreciating the good things - and there are plenty of those if you choose to look for them. Happiness isn't material. It can't be bought. It's in the relationships that you build and in doing for others. 

This last weekend was chock-full of happiness for me. 

It started at the ridiculous hour of 3:15am on Saturday after only a couple of hours of sleep. My first 4:00am long run. I'm not sure if I was giddy with excitement or fatigue but I wasn't going to miss out on this little bit of crazy. And I'm not sure how Coach Chris managed to convince our group that it was more than reasonable to be out of bed running in the dark at that hour but a pretty good sized group was at our meeting spot ready to tick off the 28k (or longer for some). 

I had two special moments on that run. I ended up running the last 7k by myself. Heading back along the river the sun was rising on a beautiful clear morning and the sky was spectacular. I was wishing I'd brought my phone along to take a photo so I could share the moment when I ran past a man who was walking the other way, missing the spectacle behind him. He said hello and I said hello back then gushed about how beautiful the sunrise was. He turned around and even though I hadn't gotten a photo, I had been able to share the moment with a complete stranger.

The second special moment came at the water stop at the uni when I ran into one of the regulars that we see walking around the area. I'd heard just that morning that his wife had died suddenly so I took the opportunity to express my condolences. His eyes filled with tears and he told me how it had all happened. It was a privilege to be able to listen and let him express his grief and shock. I know it's not exactly what I'd normally include in a post about happiness but just being able to give someone a sympathetic ear in the hard times can be such an important thing to do.

Sunday had its share of happy moments too. Watching a friend finish her first ever half marathon was great. We managed to catch her three times around the course (and have a delicious coffee - thank goodness she wasn't doing the 10k) then saw her after she'd finished. Her excitement and pride in her achievement was infectious.

What a great achievement! And she made it look easy.

Then there was a post-honeymoon catch up of the bridal party over a barbecue lunch. The barbecue was a bit of a bust with dodgy equipment that we didn't trust had cooked our meat well enough to avoid food poisoning. But the salads and slightly molten cheesecake were delicious and it doesn't hurt to go vegetarian once in a while. Honestly, it wouldn't have mattered if there was no food - the company was why we were there. Hours of talking and laughing. Getting home with aching cheeks because I'd smiled so much. That's the sort of thing that makes me happy.

Then finally spending the evening with all the family (except Sam's girlfriend Hannah who was here last weekend but is back in Sydney) over fish and chips in front of the television. The couches full to overflowing. More talking. More laughing. Then sitting with Serena (Josh's girlfriend) teaching her the basics of knitting. It's moments like this that make the mother in me content and satisfied with my life.

So I want to know what were the moments this weekend that made you happy?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

How Do You Do It?

I just have a question for all you marathoners out there. How do you do it?

Not the running part. That bit's pretty straight forward. One foot in front of the other. Left foot, right foot repeat until you get to the end of the run.

No, I mean all the rest of life PLUS the running part. I think I forgot from three years ago just how tired all those extra kilometres can make you.

My training's really bumped up in the last couple of weeks. No longer am I getting those cruisy 50k+/- weeks. My numbers are more in the late 60k range and will be pushing over 70k before too long. I know these distances aren't particularly extraordinary for marathon training. They are probably along a more conservative line. But for me they're pretty significant.

In the last week I've clocked about 66k and after my 17k (which was supposed to be 16 but it was a new route and what's an extra kilometre in the scheme of things) I was tired. But I still had a whole day ahead and there were things that really had to get done.

Like shopping. Things can get pretty hairy around here if there's no food and four hungry males. And I get pretty sick of hearing 'there's nothing to eat' (rubbish, even when I haven't shopped the pantry and freezer still are pretty full) and 'what can I make for dinner?' (to which I internally scream - use your own brain and make a decision). To say nothing of stomach growls that are so loud that they drown out the cooking shows that I like to watch. So after making myself a little presentable (ie waiting till my face was a less disturbing shade of red and showering off some of the sweat, salt and stench) I dragged my tired legs over to the grocery store.

My usual grocery store has just undergone a transplant. It's been totally moved from its location of many decades in the shopping centre. And they've re-arranged the layout of the store.

I have enough trouble shopping when they just change the packaging of what I usually buy or change its position on the shelf. Changing the whole shop has not improved my shopping abilities or my disposition. And to do it when I'm training for a marathon borders on the 'cruel and unusual'. Heaven knows why they didn't consult me when they were planning this move. It would have suited me a lot better to do it a month or so ago or some time after the middle of October.

The Powers That Be aren't totally heartless, though. They've provided all shoppers with a handy little list of alphabetized products so you have SOME hope of finding what you want. But I stress the word SOME because they've forgotten to include grocery basics like butter, cheese, yoghurt ... 

If you want things that aren't obscure, well you're on your own. Unless, of course, you ask someone who works at the store. But even then most of them have no idea how the new layout works. And if you do manage to get an answer it will usually be that what you're after is way up the other end that you started with. After running 17k I figure that I don't need bread that much. The stale and, possibly, mouldy three slices on the freezer are going to have to do.

I chatted to the checkout chick (who's more of a hen than a chicken) about how everything's going. Nice to know that the staff hate the new store too. It was designed down in Melbourne headquarters and they had no idea that the store in Indooroopilly in Queensland (a couple of thousand kilometres away) had parcel pick-up so they hadn't actually made design concessions for that. And the you-beaut, fancy carousels that hold the plastic shopping bags don't really work for people who bring their own recyclable bags. Sure they may look pretty but pretty means nothing if they don't do what they're supposed to.

After the shopping it was time to get some dinner into the slow cooker. And then off to work. I could only manage about an hour before I knew that I wouldn't make the rest of the afternoon without a nap. And because I had most of my work under control, wasn't expecting anyone and am my own boss I can do that. Take the phone off the hook, turn my mobile to silent, lock the doors and go to sleep. But not everyone has that luxury. A lot of you have nine-to-five jobs and a boss who doesn't take to you curling up under the desk to have a paid nap. And it is you people that have my respect, admiration and awe. I don't know how you do it! But if you have any tips, can you please share?