Thursday, November 28, 2013

Questions That Can't Be Answered

I know that as a running evangelist, my job is to let everyone know all the benefits of running. How running can improve your health. Make you live longer. Think clearer. Feel better. Relieve stress. Help you process the answers to all life's difficult questions.

But sometimes you finish a run feeling a bit unsatisfied.

Maybe your body hadn't recovered from the last run and it felt harder than it should have. Maybe the stresses that you were trying to let go of were still there when you got home. Or maybe the run threw up questions that you just couldn't answer and you were left brooding on them fruitlessly.

That was my run yesterday. Eleven kilometres of pondering the unanswerable. Mysteries that will never be solved.

The first was some very strange road kill. At first I thought it was just a flattened toad. But a toad doesn't have the tail of an Eastern Water Dragon. I wondered for a moment if I'd stumbled upon a genetic experiment gone terribly wrong. After all, I was heading towards the university and heaven knows what those students dream up after a night of alcohol and hallucinogens while watching vintage Danish films about giant reptiles spitting deadly green slime that causes an agonising death. (I kid you not. Check this out)

But reason had me think of a more plausible explanation. It was probably a turf war, fight-to-the-death between a toad and the water dragon. Water dragon munches down on toad not realising that the slimy stuff that burst into his mouth was actually poison. Toad is mortally wounded but the water dragon is too and in its death throes it stumbles onto the road, toad still in mouth, into the path of an early-morning peloton which fuses the two combatants together in death.

And that, people, is why we all should be kind to one another. Fighting can only lead to bad things - like being locked together in an eternal embrace on the side of the road with your mortal enemy.

I ran on, still wondering what can only truly be answered by the leader of the peloton or CCTV footage and an autopsy. Running at 5am after a disturbed night's sleep doesn't make for clarity of thinking. Luckily I was distracted after four more kilometres by another question that will never be answered.

I couldn't help but wonder what was written on the reams of paper carried by a fellow runner yesterday. And I'm not just talking about someone who's dressed like they're going to work and running like they'll miss the bus. I'm talking about someone who's dressed to run - running shoes and cap, tech shirt and running shorts. A person dressed like that generally doesn't carry anything except maybe a water bottle.

The man in question was carrying a good handful of pages. Probably at least 32. Why such an odd number? Because I guesstimated the approximate thickness of the wad he was carrying and when I got home I counted out the number of pages from a similar sized wad. Obviously!

The pages were all covered in typed words. Well maybe not all the pages. Maybe some in the centre were blank like the money I'll use to pay Iven's ransom in the event that he's ever kidnapped. But certainly the pages I could see were covered.

I really needed to know what was on those pages. Not just because I love to read. But more because I am an unashamed sticky-beak.

The thing I'd most like to be written on those sheets were the same three words over and over again. Left, right, left, right, breathe. Left, right, left, right, breathe.

So the next question is how many kilometres of running can you fit on 32 A4 pages?

I'm not even going to mention running past the toilet-shaped hollow in the side of the track where my miraculous, answer-to-prayer was nestled last week.

I got home from my run mentally exhausted and strangely unsettled.

Sometimes running isn't the answer - it's the question.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gratuitous Mummy-Bragging.

I just wanted to start this post with a little gratuitous mummy-bragging. Sam found out today that he passed his final exam and is now officially a physiotherapist.

He's wanted to be a physio since around halfway through high school. Unfortunately he didn't get high enough marks to make it into the degree right away. So he did the next closest thing - a Bachelor of Applied Science in Human Movements - and became an exercise physiologist. And I thought for a while that he'd be content doing that. He had a great job and he was good at it - according to the man who accosted me one day in Coles when I was shopping with Sam.

But Sam is tenacious and he really wanted his initial profession choice so he investigated the masters program in physiotherapy at UQ (University of Queensland). He didn't get in straight away but persistence finally paid off two years ago when he found out he was accepted.

Two years and six semesters later he's finally done what he'd dreamed of doing and I'm really proud of him.

Unfortunately, though, it means he'll be leaving us. I know it's time for him to spread his wings but I'm a bit sad that he'll be going interstate for at least the next couple of years. But it has to be - his girlfriend has been studying medicine interstate for the last two years and it's time for them to be together. They'll be in Melbourne so Sam has been down there for the last few days going to job interviews.

He'd managed to get interviews for four different practices and of those he was offered all four jobs.

I'm so excited for both of them starting this new part of their lives together. Just wishing they were a little closer. Luckily, Melbourne has quite a few races that have just become a lot more interesting.

Today also marks the one year anniversary of starting treatment after a two year battle to find out why I was always feeling weak, tired and sick. Long time readers will know the reason but for new readers I'll give the Readers Digest version of the saga.

I was really low on testosterone caused by using a birth control pill, Yaz. I was on the pill to help with dysmenorrhea - painful periods - which had me taking ibuprofen every four hours for two days to cope with the pain. The Yaz worked. No periods at all meant no pain at all but I had no idea how devastating the side effects were. 

This year's been so much better health-wise. I've had more energy. My strength is returning and my running has improved. I've been so very grateful to feel normal again. But the painful periods returned and I've been managing them with ibuprofen again.

About a month ago I noticed that my stomach was often unsettled. I was having a lot of indigestion. It started about a week out from the Melbourne marathon but I really didn't do anything about it until it was starting to keep me up at nights. Finally I made an appointment with my GP and she thought that I might have an ulcer caused by the ibuprofen. So she gave me a prescription for a Proton Pump Inhibitor to take for a month to let the ulcer heal.

You'd think with my past history with drugs that I'd have looked into this one or at least asked the doctor about its side effects. But I didn't. I blithely took it and after a couple of days the pain had disappeared. But after about ten days I was starting to get muscle and joint pains and fatigue. I put it down to running, doing some new strength work and maybe not being recovered from the marathon. 

The symptoms persisted even when I cut back on my running and I was starting to get worried that I was on the edge of another bout of overtraining syndrome. But something made me look up the side effects of the drug I was on. (Just a side-note here: there was no information in the packet. I had to look it up on-line. When did manufacturers stop putting those little information slips in the boxes?) Sure enough two of the side effects were fatigue and muscle and joint pain. 

I'd been on the tablets almost three weeks at that stage so figured that was close enough to a month to stop taking them. The day after I had my last tablet, the indigestion was back. And the day after that it was the worst I'd had it. A bit more Google research told me that people who have taken these PPI drugs often have a rebound when they go off it. Their stomach hypersecretes acid and I can tell you that that stuff hurts! Luckily that only lasted a day and I'm back to normal now.

So the moral of my story is to always ask what the side effects are. I know Dr Google is frowned upon by a lot of medicos but it's always given me relevant, valuable information about my health issues.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

I Do It Cause I Love You

It happens to me quite a lot - now that I've got to a certain age.

I'll be out and I think of something that I have to do but really can't until I get home. But by the time I get home I've forgotten it only to remember it again while I'm out. Eventually it gets done but not without a lot of exasperation on my behalf.

And that's exactly how I felt on Sunday morning as Iven and I were stepping into an elevator on our way to the movies. He'd just turned in the right direction under the right lighting and I'd seen them again - the two blackheads on his forehead that I'd spotted last week while we were out at breakfast. How had a whole week passed without me removing those little suckers?

I've always seen it as the ultimate gift of love to keep my husband's body free of black and white heads. Or maybe because we were pretty poor when we got married and had to find our own entertainment that this ritual of grooming began. I would pin him to the bed whenever I spotted my quarry and squeeze until I'd vanquished it.

Yes, sometimes there was pain (but only ever on his behalf) and there was pillow-biting and begging for mercy but this was my ultimate gift to him. The gift of fairly clear skin. And I would have felt shame letting him head out into public festooned with these pustular little flaws. (I was going to write pusy/pussy instead of pustular but was unsure of the spelling. A Google search made me realise that I was using the wrong adjective and also that it's easy to access an abundance of porn on the internet.)

I'd seen the two blackheads on his forehead the week before and vowed to get them once I'd gotten home. And then promptly forgotten. I have no idea why Iven didn't remind me. Maybe he forgot as well. Or maybe he'd seen that I'd let my fingernails grow fairly long and was trying to weasel out of my tender ministrations. All I knew is that when I saw them again yesterday I vowed that the sun was not going to set with those little suckers still embedded.

Unfortunately there was someone getting onto the lift when we were or I would have dealt with them immediately.

I did look around to see if there were security cameras - if I got the opportunity was it going to be recorded for the viewing pleasure of the security staff? I can just imagine the footage now. Me looking at Iven's face with lust in my eyes. Pressing him hard against the elevator wall and going at him until ... Sweet relief. Traces of 50 Shades of Grey and some traces of pus.

Our travel companion was only going up one floor so I held my breathe when she got off. But of course someone wanted to get on. They travelled up only one floor and got off, again to be replaced by someone else. And this happened all the way to the top. It's almost like Iven had organised to have body guards looking out for him but teasing me at the same time.

It was hard to concentrate on the movie. I kept thinking about the two giant blackheads sitting next to me and how much satisfaction I was going to get when they finally disappeared. Two and a bit hours later we were home and they were gone. My status of 'most excellent wife' has now been restored.

It got me thinking about the noises that I sometimes hear from my boys' bedrooms. Those cries of 'Leave it alone - it's not ready!!'. And it's like music to my ears. Their girlfriends care enough to groom them just as I did my husband. They're keepers for sure!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Lord Giveth ...

No two runs are ever the same.

I may run the same route over and over again but each time I run it different things happen. Sure the basics are the same - I know where each hill and dale is. I know where I'll be running along the river. Or around a pond. Or past shops - where I can see my reflection in the windows and remind myself that I really don't look anything like the Kenyan that exists in my imagination. I know that if I run to the university I'll most likely see my Greek friend who's always quick with a wave and a 'Kalimera'.

I like the sameness of it all. I like knowing what to expect. But I also like the little surprises that pop up.

Like the random toilet on Tuesday. It had intrigued me so much that I decided to head back past it on Thursday to see if I could find more answers to my many questions.

Yes, I know that I'd decided that its existence was an answer to prayers but the scientist in me likes to make sure all rational arguments have been ruled out before declaring a miracle. And I also wanted to know whether following some of the suggestions that I'd had in the comment section had borne fruit. I was totally prepared to put my hand down that toilet bowl (used, or not) if the cash or winning lottery toilet had materialised. When I was training to be a vet I'd put my hand in a lot of equally unsavoury orifices.

One of the best parts of the route is the part around the lake. There's always so much bird life and, now that the sun's up so much earlier, the lake's usually bustling with activity. Yesterday was no exception and by the time I'd finished the lake circuit I realised that a lot of the activity was in preparation for Christmas.

I'm pretty sure that the birds of the university duck pond are producing their very own version of the Twelve Days of Christmas. But, being that Christmas is still a little way out, they're only up to day three.

On the first day of Christmas my true love (which would be Iven for want of any better offers) sent to me, a moor-hen running clumsy. (Definitely not made to be fast on land with those clown-feet and long, gangly legs)

On the second day of Christmas my true love (again Iven - still no offers) sent to me, two pelicans  
(and here I was thinking they were coastal birds. You learn something new every day!) and a moor-hen running clumsy.


On the third day of Christmas my true love (Just so you don't get bored with Iven, I'm going to say Hugh Jackman this time. After all he is my celebrity free-pass) sent to me, three black ducks (Perching on the top of a bench seat, bums over the seat so I'm thinking that their plan was to add some festive 'decorations'), two pelicans and a moor-hen running clumsy.

Yes, this is the way I amuse myself during solo runs. By letting my mind wander off to the absurd. I was laughing to myself (and out loud) after I passed the ducks and I realised (probably because of the strange way the lady who was walking towards me was looking at me) that I may have looked a little crazy running along and laughing at my own private jokes.

I took a detour from my usual route after the lake so I could run past the miracle toilet. 

It's a bit harder to run when 'breathless with excitement' compounds 'breathless from running' and 'even more breathless from the little hill'. I had a little frisson run through my body as I rounded the bend and crossed to the path. I couldn't quite remember where the 1k mark had been on Tuesday but I knew it wouldn't be too long till I found my holy grail so I kept running.

I reached the bridge before I finally gave up hope. The toilet had gone. Without a trace. And with it - my hopes of easy cash or a winning lottery ticket. 

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Answers to Life's Questions

For me, one of the great things about running is the time that it gives me to think. To ponder on the deep issues. To work on the solutions to humanity's biggest problems. And to contemplate answers to existential questions.

I have solved major household crises. Like where exactly did Iven lose his wallet? (Answer - under the driver's seat of his car.) How do I get the boys to keep their rooms tidy? (Answer - I can't but the rooms have doors so at least I don't have to look at the mess.) And what will we have for dinner tonight? (Answer - chicken stir-fry with rice because that's my favourite and if I have to cook it then it might as well be something I like.)

Yesterday's run, however, threw up a question that no amount of running will ever answer.

It was speed session and generally speed session is not the time to think. It is solely about survival. It's about running as fast as you can for as long as you're told to then having a very little rest and doing it all again. For about forty-five minutes. Or until you vomit, pull a muscle or pass out. Death will also get you out of finishing the session.

Speed session also tends to be quite a social session. After all, misery loves company and hardship breeds mate-ship. It's a little bit of a band of brothers experience without the war and shooting part.

And being a social session where the aim is just to survive so you can have a nice cafe breakfast afterwards, I rarely delve into existential issues. But yesterday that question arose that I just couldn't ignore.

We were running ten minute reps. Five minutes out, five minutes back - with the aim of finishing at the spot you started at. Coach Chris sent us on our way and Coach Barry was positioned about a kilometre up the track to blow his whistle when five minutes was up. I was trying to pace myself - to not go out too hard so I could finish the whole session (of four reps) at about the same pace as I started - and I was trying not to think about anything other than the rep I was in (so I didn't psyche myself out too early). I got to about nine hundred metres and could see Coach Barry up ahead. With his car. And a cone to mark the 1k distance. And a toilet.

It wasn't a whole toilet. Just the bowl. No cistern. And it was just sitting on the side of the path.

I'm sure that there wasn't a runner in the group that didn't have the same word flash through their head.


I guess that's less of a word and more of a sound. But its meaning is more of a paragraph. Why was the toilet there? How did it get there? When did it get there? And most importantly - was it clean?

It was a good distraction - got my mind off the pain of the running and having to listen to Flo Rider singing about bubble yum bums in my head. But the lack of oxygen that always happens in speed sessions stopped me from coming up with any answers.

But today I had an epiphany.

The toilet was sent by God.

I can't tell you exactly how many times I have prayed for a toilet while I've been out running. It would probably number in the triple digits by now. They have been heart-felt prayers of desperation. Sometimes accompanied by offers of my first-born son. Or second. Or third. Or all three - depending on my level of desperation and the distance to the closest known toilet.

I had assumed that my pleas were of such a selfish nature that God had chosen to ignore them. But not so. He was just choosing his moment.

It was either that or it had been dumped there by unscrupulous tradies who didn't want to pay to dump it properly. But I'm sure that's a much less-likely answer.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

My Personal Hill Challenge.

It often starts with three little words that just whisper around your brain. "I wonder if..."

And that's how I found myself running around a mountain on Sunday morning.

I used to run hill sessions every week. I'd head up to Mt Coottha every Thursday and meet up with the squad (because misery loves company) to flog ourselves for an hour . Then I'd drive home feeling smug and content about what I'd just done. Don't get me wrong - I'm not a strong hill runner. I'm slow and I hate hills. But because I'm slow and hate hills the achievement every week seemed so much better. And I think I improved a little bit over time.

Then I hurt my hamstring. And I stopped running hills to let it recover. And while it was recovering I had another bout of over-training syndrome thanks to my non-existent testosterone levels. All of a sudden it was enough just to be able to run a little bit - very slowly and on flat routes.

But I've been training for almost a year without any issues now. I've racked up a few thousand kilometres and run seven races this year including three half marathons and a marathon. And suddenly that thought started to play in my brain. "I wonder if I can run Mt Coottha again".

I tried to ignore it at first. Remember, I don't like running hills and I'd lost all my confidence. But those voices in my head just wouldn't let up. And we all know that it's important to listen to the voices in your head and do what they say!

I talked it over with Coach Chris. He was confident that I was ready and I could come join the group that very week. I was confident that I needed to run a few times by myself to build up confidence before I joined in with the group. So he gave me his blessing and that's how I found myself parked at JC Slaughter Falls at 5am on Sunday morning wondering if it really was a good idea or not.

It's pretty quiet on the mountain at that hour on a Sunday morning. And I was grateful that the only potential witnesses to my 'failure' (ie - walking) were ones with feathers. My plan was to take it very, very slow up the main rise (about a 2.2k ascent) then see how I felt once I got to the undulating part around the top.

The first kilometre was fairly flat - a good warm up before I had to climb. And then it was up. It really didn't take long till I was breathing hard and I was going pretty slowly. But all I had to do was keep putting one foot in front of the other and block out thoughts of walking. I distracted myself looking at the birds. The scrub turkeys at the side of the road that found my speed so un-threatening that they couldn't be bothered moving when I ran past them at the speed of a glacier. The crow on the road that was pecking at what I thought was roadkill but was actually a discarded Gu packet.

I got to a point that I remembered from my old hill sessions that was about 2/3 the way up that section and that made me happy. And when I could finally see the first TV station tower I was even happier. But when I finally made it to the crest I was elated. Who cares if it took a long time? I hadn't stopped and walked once!

From there it was all undulations. Yes, there was still quite a few uphills but there were as many downs where I could catch my breath. And there was time to reminisce about hill sessions of yore. Like the time I first got to run the whole way round the mountain. And the time I tripped on a tree root and finished the run with blood running down my arm. Then there was the time that I had to duck behind a tree - or should I say times? The best thing about running on Mt Coottha is that there is no shortage of places to squat in privacy.

Before I knew it I was at the summit and it was all downhill. This is the best part of the run. The view over the city is spectacular. The running felt fast and easy and for a moment I was king of the world. Or should I say queen?

I was back at the car 55 minutes after I'd left feeling like a rock star. Or a Kenyan - a very slow Kenyan. Then back home to find Iven ready to head out for breakfast. Best way to start a Sunday!

And just a little side note. Iven proved again what a loving, attentive husband he is when we were out at breakfast. I chose something different to my normal eggs on toast and went for the bircher muesli with a berry compote, almonds, walnuts and yoghurt. Yum but not the wisest choice for someone who's lactose-intolerant.

I'm not sure what I was thinking. Maybe the post-run endorphins had addled my brain. Or maybe I'd forgotten that the yoghurt I eat at home is lactose-free. Either way it was a choice that could only end in pain and suffering.

Iven asked me if I had any of my tablets on me. Silly question. My handbag is a virtual pharmacy - ibuprofen, paracetemol, valium, zantac and lacteeze. I still hadn't realised that there was a potential disaster on my hands - or in my stomach - so I didn't understand what he meant. It turns out that it was the lacteeze he was talking about. It's a form of lactase to help digest the lactose.

How thoughtful! My wonderful husband (see, I don't always want to kill him) cares so much about me that he didn't want me to suffer. Or maybe he just didn't want a whiney, flatulant woman sharing the bed with him. Either way he's scored some brownie points there.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Racing The Storm.

It had been a long day yesterday.

I hadn't run in the morning - my legs were still tired from quite a bit of running on the weekend including a downhill run while I was spectating at an event.

Tuesday's speed session just seemed to make them more sore. So, seeing as I don't have an event even remotely soon, I chose to give them an extra day's rest.

But as much as my legs needed a rest, my head needed a run. There'd been a few things playing on my mind this week and a run is always a good way to process and defuse. Sleeping in just doesn't clear the head quite as well as a run does. So as the day wore on I started to let the things that had been bothering me build up - sometimes working by yourself isn't such a great thing.

It got to 4:30pm and I couldn't stand it any longer. I just had to get out and send all those negative thoughts out into the universe. I wasn't planning on running - just taking Toby for a walk.

But there was a little glitch to my plan. I'd been watching a band of storms on the weather radar all afternoon and it was headed our way. I was pretty sure, though, that I could do my loop and be home before they broke.

Toby was so excited to be going out. I can be a bit hit and miss with walking him. It's always been Iven's job to do while I'm cooking dinner but while he's had his bad back the responsibility has fallen to me. Toby's last walk had been Monday.

We headed up out of our hollow to higher ground and it's there that I realised that the storm was a little closer than I'd expected. The skies were ominous but the lightning and thunder was still a way off. We could do this - but only if we ran a bit.

Toby's getting a lot better at running on a lead. He still will lie down if he's had enough but he doesn't get to that point as early as he used to. His endurance is definitely improving. And yesterday he seemed to sense the urgency - or he was full of energy because of his missed walks - either way he was running as well as he's ever run. We did have to momentarily stop for a call of nature. And yes, I had my poo bag at the ready. But once that business was done there was no stopping him. 

We ran along past my Mum's house and just up from there I saw my sister driving home from walking her dogs. She stopped and offered me a lift but I declined. I'd set myself a challenge and I was still sure that we could do it. So we trotted on.

And then it happened. That dreaded feeling that so many runners get after a couple of kilometres. Of course I had to go to the toilet! And of course the toilet was just that bit too far away for me to keep running!! Running just made things worse. We had to slow to a walk. A very fast walk. And when things had settled we ran again until we couldn't. 

There are some days that I'm grateful that I know where every toilet is on my routes.

It was only a relatively quick stop but the damage was done. The wind had picked up by the time we started again and it had started to spit. Big, heavy droplets of rain. I started to worry about my sister's mention of hail and the fact that I'd commented on Liz's last post that I'd never run in a hail storm. That was tempting fate!

There was just over a kilometre till we reached home and Toby gave it everything. He bounded along with me in hot pursuit. He was loving it! For a dog who's a bit on the timid side (he's scared of strangers and big purple stuffed ponies - he's xenophobic and pediozoophobic), he doesn't mind thunder or lightening.

Five hundred metres from home and the heavens opened up on us. 

The race was over and we'd lost. But there are no real losers in running. I felt great. Toby felt great.(But smelt pretty awful. Wet dog isn't my favourite scent but it is a big step up from cat wee) 

And  the few calories burnt meant I could justify a little bit of this.

It's not every day that your baby turns 20!

But best of all that run let me smile and mean it when we took the obligatory family shot for the Christmas newsletter.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Christmas Crazies Are Upon Us

Today I'm feeling a little overwhelmed.

The decorations are up at our local shopping center. Christmas foods are filling the shelves in the supermarket and quite frankly I'm surprised that I haven't heard a Christmas carol yet.

There's only 41 more days till Christmas and I've done absolutely nothing about it. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

And what's worse - yesterday was my #3 son's birthday and I still haven't bought his present. He knows I haven't got it but he's been in exams and it's been on the low end of the list of priorities. But I still feel bad that I haven't done it. And I haven't made him a cake. And we haven't had any birthday celebration whatsoever.

Usually I can do my best interpretation of an ostrich, put my head in the sand and pretend that it's not happening.

But with Iven still being out of action, I know that most of the Christmas prep will be over to me and I won't even be able to delegate the running around part.

So today I decided that I had to rectify some of those 'haven'ts' - the ones' relating to Luke's birthday. I bought a card. I bought a small gift (not his main one because he wants something that requires his input and a bit of research). His cake's now in the oven. And I've realised that I can't get this far behind when it comes to Christmas planning because no one will be happy if we get to Christmas and I tell them I just haven't got around to it yet.

So I've started to make a list in my head of what has to get done and that's why I'm overwhelmed. There's a list of people to buy gifts for but no inspiration for a gift for a single person on that list. There's the looming birthday of the love of my life - again no inspiration for a gift. There's about twelve rhythmic gymnastics costumes that have to be created. And I use the word created because one does not simply make a rhythmic costume. It takes a lot of time and effort and creativity.

I'm feeling a bit ill about it all.

I thought Christmas was supposed to be a time of joy and peace. Not feeling much of either of those at the moment but I've got a chance to rectify that and the first thing I need to do is write a list. Not just make a list in my head because that starts to send me all sorts of crazy. The list in my head is not tangible and seems to grow exponentially with every thought. A physical, written list has a beginning, middle and end and, best of all, can be crossed off as things get done. Seeing things being crossed off helps with the anxiety.

So here's the start of my list -

Bake Luke's Birthday Cake
Buy Birthday Card and write on it

Two things crossed off my list! I'm feeling better already.

And the other thing I'll be doing to help with the pre-Christmas crazies is to run. Or to walk on the days that I'm not scheduled to run. Running is so good when it comes to helping me keep my life in balance. And sometimes it helps me come up with solutions to problems so if I write my list of people to buy for just before I run, I may come home with a comprehensive list of gifts to buy. Or I might totally forget everything by the time I get home - it's so easy to get distracted while you're running.

So now I have to come up with a way of jotting down my inspiration while I'm out. It's not weird to run with a notepad and pen is it?

PS - Just taken the cake out of the oven. New recipe. It overflowed the tin a little so the top of the cake is messed up. Thank goodness for icing - it hides a multitude of sins!.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Running With Purpose.

Every running session has a purpose.

It might be to get faster. It might be to build endurance. It might be to build leg strength. Or to help you run at a faster speed for longer.

Tuesday's speed session is to do exactly that - improve speed. Sometimes we work on overall speed and sometimes (with the long reps and shorter recoveries we're focusing on speed endurance.

My Monday and Thursday runs have now become Tempo runs which are to improve lactate threshold. Or, in layman's terms, improve the ability to be able to run faster for longer. It's also a session where I can improve my ability to judge pace - which, despite running for very many years, is something I'm still not very good at.

I'm aiming to go back to the hill sessions soon and they're all about building leg strength. But before I go back to running hills with the group I want to do a few remedial sessions so I don't have to walk for the entire 60 minutes.

And finally the Saturday session is to work on endurance. Except last Saturday's session.

That's not actually true because the session was focused on endurance but it did have another goal. I could be nice and say this goal was to prove Coach Chris's theory - that humans are creatures of habit. If you run, you will probably tend to run at the same times every week and down the same routes. This is a fairly innocuous theory but the reason we were trying to prove it was not quite so innocuous so I don't have to be nice when I explain the real goal of Saturday's run.

The real goal of Saturday's run was to find last week's vision of loveliness so Coach Chris could see for himself what all the fuss was about. And maybe invite her to join the group (I had been assigned that role because it's not so creepy to a young woman to have an older woman ask you to join something whereas a group of enthusiastic middle-aged men asking her to do the same might be a bit off-putting.)

Last week Coach Chris had decided to go to Noosa for the triathlon and so he totally missed seeing what no other male runner on Coronation Drive bike path did. To say he was disappointed would have been an understatement so he hatched a plan whereby we'd be running along the same stretch at exactly the same time of day.

He'd grilled other members to narrow down the time frame. We needed to be running back to the Regatta from the Go Between Bridge at 7:04 precisely.

And we were.

But she wasn't. Palpable disappointment!

I didn't realize that it had meant that much to him until we reached the end and I said casually that his opportunity had passed. All he heard was 'passed' and assumed that I was telling him that she was running past. I have never seen a man swivel his head that quickly! I'm surprised he didn't end up with whiplash.

And he wasn't the only heavyhearted runner that morning. The mood was a lot more somber over breakfast.

It might have been a good thing though. Sometimes when you paint a picture for some else they might not appreciate it quite the way you do. Coach Chris may not have found her the stunner that everyone else did and this way she can remain an enticing, exotic legend. A sylph-like creature who may or may not exist like a mermaid or the abominable snowman. Or a beautiful girl riding a unicorn a little like the one below - only wearing an outfit no bigger than a handkerchief.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Anyone Know Of A Good Witness Protection Program?

I'm a little bit late with this post because I've been in hiding.

I've heard some ominous, menacing whisperings that there is a section of the population that wasn't happy with my revelations in my last post. You know - the one about The Code.

Apparently men can get a bit snarky when their secret men's business becomes public knowledge.

I hadn't realised that it would have touched on such a soft spot that men, who I previously thought as gentle, would resort to violence. I was accosted in a car park before speed session on Tuesday morning by a silver-haired assassin. Sure that mock-punch didn't actually hurt but its threat was implied - a little like the kiss of death by the Godfather.

And if that wasn't disturbing enough, I've been getting phone calls. Repeat phone calls where the phone rings and rings and rings and NO ONE LEAVES A MESSAGE. OMG - how scary is that!! 

I'm terrified that someone's leaked my phone number to an Outlaw Motorcycle Gang. Why else would I be getting phone calls with no messages? Well, I guess it could be that someone wanted to order a leotard and actually wanted to talk to a person and not a machine but I'm sure the Outlaw Motorcycle Group is a much more likely option. I'm certain it's only a matter of time before I get abducted by said Outlaw Motorcycle Group and my body is found a week later - battered, bruised and tattooed. 

All I can say is if I'm going to be tortured via tattoo gun for having a blabber-mouth I'd like to request that at least one of the tattoos that I get has a running theme. Preferably making reference to running a marathon. And maybe a tattoo in Chinese characters that says 'The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.' That seems relevant for a marathon runner.

I personally don't understand all the fuss. I thought that it was common knowledge that men liked to perve on attractive looking women. Even unattractive ones when they've got their beer-goggles on. I thought that the fact that they were prepared to suspend their perving privileges for the sake of honour and 'teamsmanship' was showing a level of restraint and principle that was to be admired. Maybe the problem was because it was a mere woman that exposed that there is still integrity within the male of the species. I'm really not sure about the hows and whys - all I know is that I've bruised a few egos.

So that's why I've been in hiding. Except for this morning. Because even people in hiding need to get out for their runs. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Honour Among Thieves

One of the many, many reasons that I love running with a group is the opportunity to meet new people. To learn a bit about what makes them tick and to enjoy their company.

This was especially important during marathon training. Those long 37k runs were only made bearable because of the company, the banter and the laughs. I spent quite a lot of time in the company of a few men - something I'm fairly familiar with, having a household full of them. And it was from them that I first heard about 'The Code.'

Sounds a little bit James Bondish, doesn't it?

Gratuitous picture of Daniel Craig sans shirt.

Apparently there's an unwritten code within running groups (or at least within ours) that all the males must abide by.

As well as being unwritten, it's also not often spoken about so how all the males in the group are supposed to know about it, let alone abide by it, is beyond me. But somehow, by a series of gestures, eyebrow raises, elbow nudges, throat-clearing and telepathic messages scent via testosterone fumes, The Code gets spread.

I think that the only reason that I am aware of The Code is because of my artificially elevated testosterone level which made me 'one of the boys'. Big mistake there boys! Despite the circulating male hormones, I'm still a blabber-mouth girl at heart.

So by now you're all dying to know what The Code is, aren't you? It's a standard of behaviour where the males of the group shalt not perve on the females of the group. It's one of the ten commandments of group running and slots in between number six (Thou shalt not pass wind whilst running at the front of the group) and number eight (Thou shalt not wear white Skins unless worn underneath shorts).

It's an 'honour among thieves' sort of code which allows all the women to run safe in the knowledge that they probably won't get hit upon. Or leered at uncomfortably. And it also frees us from unnecessary concern about our appearance because, no matter how well we present at 5:30am, it will go unnoticed ... or largely unnoticed. Hey, there may be a code but they still have eyes!

There have been some of the group who have disregarded The Code - out of ignorance or not. And some of these no longer run with the group (and some are living 'happily ever after' and still running with the group - so breaking The Code doesn't actually mean that you get ostracised).

But the thing about The Code is that it ONLY applies to women within the group. Any other woman is still fair game. As a woman running among men I've enjoyed observing, from an anthropological and biological aspect, the behaviour of male runners in the wild when they come upon an attractive member of the opposite sex.

We'll be running along, maybe at the end of a 20k run and come upon a gorgeous leggy blonde in short shorts and a crop top (as we did last Saturday). As I was running slightly behind I had the perfect vantage spot to watch the interaction. There was a definite change in posture as they drew closer. All of a sudden they were running taller, with their chests out and their pace had picked up. I could hear David Attenborough talking in my head about the male of the species competing for female attention by showy displays of strength. It was one of those spectacles of the wild that was a privilege to behold.

Interestingly though, The Code doesn't apply to the females in the group. We have free reign to perve on anyone who we deem as perve-worthy. I'm not sure who made up these one-sided rules but I've always been a stickler for rules so I'm happy to abide by them. But one thing's for sure, I'd never be caught eyeing off attractive male runners without shirts running through Southbank Parklands. Honestly, I hardly noticed him.