Monday, July 29, 2013

Confidential Medical Results

There's nothing like a letter marked 'Confidential Medical Results' to give you letter-opening anxiety. I got one the other day and I knew exactly what results they were talking about.

Remember my post about bowel cancer testing? That's the only test I'd done recently so I surmised that it was those results (and the fact that it had National Bowel Cancer Screening Program printed on the envelope doesn't detract at all from the brilliance of my deduction). I hadn't been at all concerned about the results of the test. But the moment I saw those words 'Confidential Medical Results', I assumed the worst.

I have a tendency to do that. If a police car is behind me in traffic I'll assume that I'm going to be pulled over even if I've done nothing wrong. If the shop-lifting alarm in a shop goes off as I'm going through I automatically feel guilty. If one of my kids complains about having a headache I usually jump straight to brain tumour, aneurysm or viral meningitis. I'm sure this is a rational response in situations of potential crisis - assume the worst so when it doesn't happen your sense of relief and gratitude is almost like an endorphin high.

I had to talk sternly to myself before I could actually open the letter. Something along the line of -'Chances are that it's probably okay and just because it looks ominously official doesn't mean that it is. And IF you did turn out to be that one in 2000 women who ends up with bowel cancer, wouldn't you like to catch it early when it's treatable?'

When I finally had calmed myself enough to open it I only had to read one word to know that everything was just as it should be. Pleased. They were Pleased to advise me that the result of my faecal occult blood test was negative.

It was just like getting my exam results back in my uni days. But without being graded. This test is only pass/fail but it made me wonder if they had to grade it, what would I have been given. As I can be a perfectionist and a little competitive at times, I'd like to think that I got an A+. After all they did start the letter by thanking me for taking part and sending back my sample. I don't think I'm reading anything into it by thinking they'd only thank the highest performing participants.

But onto more important issues.

Today's Tuesday and Tuesday means only one thing. Speed session.

My love/hate relationship with speed continues. I love going. I love catching up with the squad. I love breakfast afterwards. I love it when I can get all my intervals at around the same pace. I love the recoveries. And I love that I can really push hard this year.

But I hate how hard it gets as the session goes on. I hate the 100m recoveries which seem way too short when you've run 1600m hard. I hate that despite my best efforts, I do tend to slow down. And I hate that Coach Chris really enjoys seeing us in pain - the more we hurt, the happier he is.

When it's over I love the way I feel - like I've worked really hard, because I have. We all have! And the fact that there are more loves than hates means that I keep going back week after week after week.

I may need to do as Toby is to get me through the day today. Some days I'm extra grateful that I work from home.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saturday Is Long Run Day

I had a hard time wrapping my head around what time I had to set my clock for this morning.

Yes, that really is a.m. And I even woke up before it went off. Just call me an over-achiever.

Why was I waking up at this ungodly hour?

Toby had no answers to that question. Not even turning the light on and poking him was going to get him up. His internal alarm doesn't go off until at least 6 am and even then he pushes the snooze button a couple of times before the sound of dog food hitting his bowl rouses him from his dreams of world domination where deforestation is outlawed and butt-sniffing is de rigueur.

I had to get up early today to get to the first longer run of marathon training. 

Early is a relative term. I actually thought getting up at my usual 4:45 am was early. And, seeing as it's still pitch black outside I'm happy to still call it early. But if I was to run most of my 24k in company I needed to get 4k done before meeting the group. Yes, I could have gotten up even earlier and gone out with the group that left at 4:00 am (and I will be doing that in the up-coming weeks) but it was hard enough wrapping my head around the 4:15 alarm. I have no idea how I'm going to cope with one that starts with a 3!

One of my squad friends had kindly volunteered to meet me early so I wouldn't have to run alone in the dark so that's how I found myself loitering in the dark car park of a bottle shop at 4:55 in the morning. The things I do!

Helen and I managed a nice easy 4.5k before getting back to the bottle shop car park by 5:30. Funnily enough it didn't seem quite so dodgy to be hanging around there when there were lots more runners around. And it felt pretty good to have a few k under my belt before setting out with the group.

I haven't run anywhere much over a half marathon in the last couple of years so I wasn't really sure how it would go. After the last couple of years my default mode is to doubt myself unless and until I've achieved my goal. I knew I'd be good for at least 21.1k but after that it was anyone's guess.

It was good to have company to 14k. It was good to have someone to discuss the aesthetic virtues of low-cut running tops and non-supportive running bras versus the long-term damage to breast ligaments and the potential for topless photos that look like they're out of National Geographic. Gravity can be a bitch.

The stretch home was a solo effort - even without the dulcet tones of Buble, Manhattan Transfer and Newton Faulkner to keep me company. And it went surprisingly well. Sure, I got a bit tired but I think that's pretty normal for a run that long. But I was nowhere near as tired as I used to get last year for runs even as short as 12k. And I finished knowing that I could have kept going (but happy I didn't have to).

My knee held up remarkably well. I'd used some Rocktape (same type of stuff as Kinesiotape) and I've been doing my strength stuff all week. There was no pain during the run and, even better, no pain after I'd finished.

The solo run home was a reminder of exactly why I wanted to do another marathon. I secretly love doing the training. I love feeling hard-core seeing those big numbers tick over on my Garmin. I love adding up the totals for the week. I love pushing myself through the tough parts of the run and feeling like I've won every single time I meet my goal. And I love seeing how many calories I've burnt by the end of 150 mins of running. Yes, I don't mind if I do have that piece of chocolate.

And I really, really love that post-run, Saturday afternoon nap. Where you sleep like you've really earned it - because you have! 

 And I'm not the only one who loves those Saturday afternoon naps.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Embracing Strength Training

My knee has been playing up.

Not happy! I'm just into my second week of marathon training and it's been just a little bit niggly. Right when I want everything to be perfect - or as perfect as they can be in this ageing body.

I know what the problem is. ITBS - Iliotibial band syndrome. I've had it before. A few times.

First time was when I was training for my first half marathon and it was uncomfortable for weeks. I had to scale back my training and visit my friend Chris, the physio, quite a lot. But it did eventually get better and I was able to run my half quite happily. Or maybe I should really say I ran it pain-free because I do remember that there were some not-so-happy moments in that event - like throwing up over someone's shoes when I crossed the finish line.

It reared its head again a few years later and again Chris's magic fingers put it right. Plus this time she showed me how to strap my ankles/arches so I could keep the problem at bay.

That was about five years ago and apart from running a half marathon on a very cambered road which caused another short relapse, I've really had no problems with it.

I ran the Sydney Morning Herald Half back in May and during the race I started to feel that old familiar tug around my knee at around the 17k mark. But diligent stretching and rolling whipped it back into line pretty quickly. Then after the Gold Coast 10k I felt it again. I managed to get through the whole Jetty to Jetty race before I had any issues this time but the 45 minute drive home made my knee seize up.

Back on the roller, tennis ball, heat pack, stretching and ibuprofen and it's not too bad now. I was able to run the speed session yesterday without too much issue but it's left me a little concerned about the long runs that are ahead of me.

As chance would have it, I had a coffee date with Chris yesterday and was able to talk to her about it. She agreed with my theory of why it's raised its ugly head again which basically all stems back to the health issues that Yaz caused me. I lost a lot of muscle strength because of the lack of testosterone and because I was so exhausted all the time, I didn't bother to do any strength work. My core and hip strength has suffered.

I'm okay over shorter distance - up to 12k or even 20k if I'm not running hard. But once I start to get tired my form suffers, my hip drops and my ITB starts to tighten up.

Exhibit A
Luckily the cure's not too difficult. It just means that I can no longer ignore the need for at least a little bit of strength training. I had been doing some hip strengthening exercises but I have to confess that I was a bit slip-shod about them. If I didn't feel like doing them I didn't. I can't do that any more and I also have to do a lot more (a lot more than nothing really isn't that much) core work.

So I started last night. All those hip exercises that Chris and Sam had given me and the dynamic core work that both of them had suggested. Planks are passe now - unless they involve movement. And I thought that just holding it still was hard enough.

Guess what? Today I'm a bit sore. Not my knee. Just all those muscles that haven't had to work for a couple of years - they're complaining like a dole-bludger who's been forced into a work program to keep his entitlements. Gotta love DOMS! Means I'm getting stronger.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Jetty To Jetty Half Marathon - A Lesson In Pacing

I did it!

I got under the 1:50 for a half marathon - just! 

Yes, it's probably a surprise that I was actually racing yesterday. I kept it on the down low so as not to put much pressure on myself. I hadn't done a whole lot of longer runs in the month leading up to the Jetty to Jetty so I didn't know where I was fitness-wise. And let's face it - I don't do pressure that well. 

So it was a very relaxed me that left home at 5:30am yesterday. I even managed small conversations with Iven without feeling the need to puke. That's always a good sign.

We made it to Redcliffe about half an hour before the race was to start and I made Iven drop me off near the porta-loo queues and told him to meet me back at the playground when he'd found a park. I'd stupidly taken my bag out of the car and was going to hand it over to him when he got back but 15 minutes later he still hadn't arrived and I started to get a little anxious. Luckily JT, a squad-mate, was passing by and offered to take the bag so I could line up at the start. I made it there with less than ten minutes to spare. Hmm, I think Iven and I need to work on our communication.

All week I'd been obsessively checking the weather forecast and it hadn't looked good. Wet for most of the week then clearing to a very windy day. Not great conditions for my 1:50 beating attempt but we runners have to take whatever the weather gods dish out. But as it turned out, the day was perfect. Yes, there was a bit of wind on some of the course but certainly not the gales they'd predicted. No rain and perfect temps made me a happy starter.

I found myself just behind the 1:50 pacer and even though I had a loose plan in my head (to try to stay in the low 5s for each kilometre), I decided that I must have been meant to follow him. And this was a mistake that I'll never make again.
I stole this from the Jetty 2 Jetty Facebook page. If you look hard you can see my head just behind the man wearing the blue singlet.
The gun went off and my pacer took off like a scared rabbit. There was a little dodging and weaving but not too bad. I was staying in contact but felt like I was running a little harder than I would have liked. But we did have to go up a hill nearly straight away so I decided that it was okay and just trust the pacer. I got to the first k (by my watch - there were only a few kilometre markings through the course) at 5:10. I knew 5:12 was the pace I had to beat to go under 1:50 so I was going okay.
Soon after we passed 1k the pacer started to speed up. So I sped up too. I didn't notice it at first because I was just trying to keep the same distance from him but the 10m that he was in front stretched out quickly to around 20 then 30. The second kilometre beeped - 4:57. Okay I'd banked a bit of time on that kilometre but it was faster than I'd planned.

Now any normal, rational and intelligent person would have decided at that point that the pacer had some Machiavellian plan to try to destroy any of the runners that were attempting to keep with him. A normal, rational and intelligent person would have switched to their original plan because to continue blithely on would be folly in the highest order.

I am obviously not a normal, rational or intelligent person. No, I decided that I'd done two kilometres (yes, ONLY TWO out of 21) at a faster pace than I had run for some years so I'd be fine. Yeah, it might hurt towards the end but I'd be right. The next kilometre clicked over at an even faster pace. I was laughing and spitting in the eyes of the running gods. Apparently they don't take kindly to that sort of behaviour.

Kilometre 4 had a hill and a water stop so my pace slowed a littler - 5:02 - but I made up for it in the next kilometre 4:50. The pacer was almost out of sight at this point so I was effectively running my own race but it didn't really slow me. I got to the 10k mark about one minute slower than I'd run the 10k at Gold Coast just a fortnight ago. Alarm bells were going off in my head but something, let's call it blind optimism, kept me from slowing.

We'd turned back at around the 10k mark and the course changed from mostly road to footpath along the water. It was just gorgeous!. Blue sky, blue water, pelicans, dogs running on the beach. The support was sparse but enthusiastic and the volunteers were friendly and supportive. 

I got to 15k still managing respectable splits but I'd borrowed too much and the energy debt-collector was there wanting to be paid. My 16th kilometre blew out to 5:21. There were still 5k to run, I was getting a stitch and I was ready to stop. People started to run past me. I'd try to hang with them for a while but would have to give up before long. The few people that I did pass I did so with respect because I knew that they were probably hurting worse than me.

But on the bright side, I caught the 1:50 pacer and his single follower. And I left him eating my dust - for about three k until he decided to ditch her and finish the race alone. I also passed the guy who was towing his friend on roller-blades who was taping the race. One volunteer asked if I was okay and I smiled and nodded, thinking that I hoped I didn't look as dreadful as I felt. But she let me pass without calling the paramedics so I must have faked it well enough.

I've run the first section of this race a few times before in the 5k and 10k events and there's a hill at the end that is a heart and spirit breaker. I was already hurting pretty badly and had started to dread the hill. And it wasn't the only hill before I finished. There were a couple of little rises that were also going to be testing close to the end of a half. 

One of those rises came in the second last kilometre. And I actually made it to the top .. then promptly stopped and walked a bit. I wasn't the only one but that didn't make me feel any better. I'd totally stuffed up the race pacing but I hate walking in a race. But my fear of the killer hill was what made me want to catch my breath. 

Another hill came and I made it to the top but managed to keep running this time but I was still anticipating that awful hill and was convinced I'd have to walk some of it. Someone yelled that it was all downhill now. But I knew that my nemesis still had to be conquered. So I held back a bit. The crowds were getting thicker and I could see the race precinct. I looked at my watch and there was only a few hundred metres to go so I picked up my pace. I turned the last corner to see the clock ticking up to the 1:50 but I couldn't make it in before it had ticked over. But a glance at my watch showed me that I'd done it! All pain forgotten. 

So where did that last hill go? Either the hill that I thought was the second last was the last hill but I remember it as harder than that. Or they changed the route slightly. 

So the lessons learnt from yesterday are to stick to your own race plan. Don't be afraid to change plans mid-race if what you're doing isn't working. And maybe stretch a little more before you get back into the car for the 45 minute drive home. But when all's said and done I still ran the fastest half that I've run since 2010 so it's not all bad.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Bet You're Jealous

I love getting parcels in the mail.

Usually they're filled with fun stuff - running shoes, running singlets, sugar flowers to put on cupcakes. Sometimes they're filled with utilitarian stuff like vacuum bags or ink cartridges for the printer. Sometimes they're filled with stuff that you just don't want to have to deal with.

The parcel that I got this week fit into that category. I know that I should be grateful to have gotten it. And I know that the parcel was just the government's way of saying 'we care about every tiny little detail of you'. I also know that by doing what the parcel required of me could possibly save me from a very horrible and painful death. But that still doesn't stop me from being squeamish.

Yes, I was squeamish. Me - who used to stick her arm up the backsides of cows and still, to this day, enjoy expressing the anal glands of our little fox terrier. I just wanted to chuck the parcel away and ignore the fact that I'd ever received it.

But a little voice inside me head wouldn't let me. And so I sucked up every last bit of preciousness and dealt with it.

This was what was in the parcel.

It contained lots of instructions and vials and labels and stuff. All very scientificky. Reminded me of my university days and those hours spent taking samples of intestinal fluids from different areas of a sheep's gut.

The instructions were pretty straightforward and apparently hilarious if you're not the one who has to undergo the test. #1 son, Sam, didn't even try to keep a straight face when he was reading out the instructions to me. He particularly liked the stylised drawing of the faecal sample (poo to those of you who haven't had my scientific background and s#@t to the rest of you who like to call a spade a bloody shovel).

I felt the pressure of performance all week. I didn't want to have to do the test on my running mornings because delving into ones own faeces at 5:00am is beyond what my sensibilities can deal with. And taking it on my run just in case it was one of 'those' runs didn't seem like a fun option (although the vials would have fit nicely into my Spibelt). Having to explain to someone who's seen you squatting behind a bush that you were just doing a highly classified scientific experiment for the government would probably see you on the end of some very sceptical stares.

 I was very relieved (no pun intended) when I could finally post off my samples - in a normal letterbox with other people's important mail. I said a little prayer as the parcel disappeared down the gaping maw of the box that I'd screwed up the test tubes good and tight. And then another little prayer for the person who's job it is to have to open all those returning parcels. Because as much as I thought mine was a pretty horrible parcel to receive, theirs is infinitely worse.

I guess I wanted to overshare my experience as a heads up to those of you Australians who read my blog who haven't yet turned 50 so you know what delights are ahead of you. And to you non-Australians - aren't you jealous that you don't have a government who's so 'anal' about the health of their constituents?

I couldn't finish this post on that unsavoury note so I'll leave you with a couple of photos that are way more pleasant.

The wattle is out at the park that I run through near my home. I suspect that it's that wattle that's been making my eyes itchy - because they've only been itchy since the flowers have come out. But I'm happy to endure itchy eyes just because they're so pretty. My nodding acquaintance that you can just see at the bottom of the picture agreed that it was a beautiful sight and she didn't think it was at all weird that I was taking photos of it on my run.

More cupcakes! I haven't had so much sewing to do lately. Had my week's work finished by Wednesday afternoon which left me with nothing to do on Thursday and Friday except bake. Vanilla berry cakes were what #2 son Josh suggested and this is what he got.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Don't Mess With Me

I had an interrupted night two nights ago.

Iven was re-enacting the Texas Chainsaw massacre in the bed next to me but without any blood or killing. Just sound - no pictures. I'd been asleep for only an hour and half and no amount of prodding was effective in getting him to roll onto his side.

So I did what any marathoner-in-training-who-needs-their-sleep would do. I crankily picked up my pillow, stomped out of the room and walked down the hall to the only spare bed in the house (that's only spare because #3 son is house-sitting).

It was NOT FUN having to warm up another bed. And it was NOT FUN remembering that #3 son hadn't changed his sheets probably since the last time I changed his sheets because I couldn't stand their mankiness. That would have been over two months ago and I was pretty sure that the white sheets were no longer white. And that they may have had microscopic things crawling in there eating my dead skin cells. Exfoliation by dust mites isn't a beauty treatment that's particularly desirable.

It took me a long time to get back to sleep.

I finally got up at 7:30 am, feeling a little hungover from broken sleep. Walked up the hall to find our bedroom door shut and when I opened it there it was ... an unmade bed!

I know it's not a big deal in the scheme of things but in our house who-ever gets out of the bed last has to make it. Iven had broken one of the unbreakable rules. And it added insult to injury to have to make it after not being able to sleep in it. And the worst part about it was not being able to vent!

I texted him a very curt message (which he didn't read until he got home from work that afternoon). But that wasn't good enough so I spent the rest of the morning trying to plot my revenge.

I am not very creative in the vengeance department. All I could come up with was tampering with baked goods or re-tuning the TV and making sure his favourite station wasn't there any more.

And then I had a stroke of genius. I completed his puzzles (Sudoku and the crossword) in the paper.

Yeah - that showed him! Don't mess with me cause I'm ruthless with a pen.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Marathon Training - Day 1, Week 1

Firstly, thank you to everyone who commented on my last post re the running nausea. I'll definitely be looking into the ginger gummies to try on my long runs. And the dietitian referrals were also appreciated Liz. I'll be looking into those.

What's wrong with this photo?

If you said the little bit of mud on otherwise pristine shoes then you'd be right. Sad face! My new shoes no longer look new. But considering that today was officially the start of my Melbourne training maybe a little mud's not a bad thing. They're only going to get dirtier as the weeks roll on so I may as well get over the disappointment early. It's a little like getting the first dent in your brand new car - a pity but inevitable.

The training session was quite a restrained one as far as speed sessions go. I think that Coach Chris is getting soft (and I think I'll pay for that comment next week at speed because he generally reads these posts). I couldn't believe it when he said we were doing 500m reps with 500m recovery. Usually it's something inhumane like 400m reps with a 50m recovery or 1k reps with a 100m recovery but I guess it was the first speed session back after Gold Coast for a lot of the group so it was a matter of easing us back into it.

Long recoveries are awesome! They let you push yourself that little bit harder on the rep while knowing you'll have plenty of time to recover before you have to do your next. But in saying that it didn't seem that much easier while I was actually running the rep. Every time I'd get to the spot where I knew it was only 200m to go and I'd be thinking 'just hold on and keep your legs moving'. Then for the first 200m of the recovery I'd be wondering if I could do another anywhere near as fast but by the time I'd hit the 500m mark I'd be raring to give it another shot.

Strangely there was no music playing in my head today. Maybe it was because the songs on the radio on my trip over were ones that I didn't know. Or maybe I need longer reps to get my inner gramophone working. (For you sweet young things who don't know what a gramophone is, think old-style MP3 player without the portability or the clarity of sound)

It was interesting to compare my times with older sessions. At the end of last year I'd done some 500m reps and they were all in the 2:25 -2:30 range. Today's session ranged from 2:09 to 2:13. A graphic demonstration of the benefits of a normal hormone balance.

Because last week was so light running-wise I had to resort to other means of getting my happy fix. Butter, sugar, flour and eggs plus a little inspiration are all that's required. A sugar high's pretty much the same as a running high isn't it? 

Last week's creations were The Kryptonite (thanks for the great name Lauren) They're my favourite chocolate cupcakes but the twist is the centre of choc-mint ganache, the choc-mint buttercream and the crushed peppermint crisp on the top. 

 And for those who are fond of desserts, here's one in cake form - Apple Crumble Cupcakes. I used my vanilla cake recipe and added cinnamon instead of vanilla then put a layer of stewed apples (just apple - no sugar) in the middle. The icing was maple syrup and cinnamon buttercream with a generous topping of crumble.

It's just as well I'm back running more this week because my jeans may have started to complain if I'd had to continue to taste-test new creations. 

So how do you other runners cope when you're not running as much?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Looking Forward To Melbourne

I don't like the week after a big event. Before the event there's all the anticipation. The excitement. The nervousness. The preparation. And then there's all the fun of the event itself. Spending time with friends. Getting away from the hum-drum of everyday life. Eating out (and eating stuff you normally wouldn't). And then it's all over.

Ughh! Back down to earth with a bump. Washing to do. Dinners to be made. Groceries to be bought. Bikinis to be cut out.

And there's the post-race fatigue - totally normal after giving it your all and being on a high for a couple of days. So it's important to have a bit of time off to recover but not running makes me feel a bit blah anyway so it's a catch 22 situation. And add to that my breakfast buddies have been away this week. Well let's just say that it's been a long week.

So I've been trying to relax and enjoy a couple of sleep ins this week. I've done some strength work (still working on my weak left hip which was pretty obvious in this photo - thanks for pointing that out Sam when all I wanted you to notice was the new-found muscle definition in my quads)  and lots of stretching and I'm feeling ready and raring to jump into marathon training.

Melbourne marathon is only 13 weeks away! 

I'm a little bit scared. Not by the training. I'm looking forward to that in a weird, masochistic kind of way. I like spending hours on Saturdays slogging away. And I really like the re-fuelling afterwards and the well-earnt afternoon naps and wearing compression gear all day to remind you of your big achievement (as if the tight, sore muscles and the stiff walk don't do that). 

No, my fear comes from not being able to totally forget the last 7 kilometres of my only other marathon. You'd think that three years would be long enough to forget something considering that I often have problems remembering where I put my keys or people's names or where I parked my car. Getting lost in the Arts Centre trying to find a toilet is not something you easily forget. But the lesson learnt here is that if you need a toilet try to find one on the course. And the nausea that made me go searching for the toilet in the first place is something that I want to avoid this time round.

I have a sneaking suspicion that it was the gels that I was using that made me feel so awful. Yes, I'd used them in training but they were filled with a lot of chemical things that were unpronounceable and I've had the same reaction in other races after taking them. So I've switched to just plain honey and I'm hoping that will do the trick. 

I also suspect that my stomach got to the point that it just wasn't digesting anything any more and all that gel and water was just swooshing around every time I took a step. So my plan is to practice my fuelling strategies in training and make sure I have them right. I may even go see a sports nutritionist and get some good advice. Anything to avoid feeling that bad again. 

And I'm also asking for advice from any of my weak-stomached readers. If you've had issues on long runs or in long races what's helped you? 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Gold Coast 2013

Saturday's race was such a small part of the marathon weekend for me. Of course it was the reason I was there but it wasn't the only highlight.

Before the race I'd had a few issues with accommodation which meant that I wasn't staying at my parent's unit with Iven, which is what usually happens. I'd ended up asking my BFF Natalie if I could crash with her and of course she let me - probably because I'm a charming, low-effort guest who has cake decorating skills. Yes, the cake decorating part was actually relevant and will definitely score me an invite back (but next time I'll be bringing my own piping bag with me, packed in amongst the Garmin and running shoes)

It wasn't only Natalie that was happy to have me. Cuddles was also happy to have me and my sweaty Mizunos share her space. I'm not totally sure why she was so obsessed with my shoes but I think she was sending the message home to my dogs on behalf of all cats that cats rule and dogs drool. I'd definitely agree with her on the drool part.

After our race we had breakfast but then Natalie had a birthday party to go to. This was where my cake decorating skills came in. I'd never iced brownies before. Never used a piping gun before either but after a failed attempt to squeeze the chocolate ganache out of a makeshift piping bag and have that plastic bag split and ganache end up all over the place, the piping gun seemed a pretty good option. 

Once she was off I was left on my lonesome with the afternoon to fill and no real plans to fill it - apart from a nap. But it turned out that I wasn't that tired and by 3:30 I was out the door for a walk. 

Natalie lives really close to the Broadwater in Labrador and it was just a lovely place to walk in the late afternoon. She also lives very close to a lot of cafes and restaurants, one being a Baskin and Robbins - mmm, ice cream. I made a mental note of that one in capitals and bold print and highlighted it. My race was over and I was thinking to hell with the lactose intolerance. 

I walked up towards the race precinct. Enjoying the views. Relishing having the time to myself with no responsibility. Feeling happy and at peace with the world. And marvelling that I actually had the energy to walk after such a good race - I wouldn't have been able to do it last year. 

I stopped every so often to take happy snaps.

Things that amuse me - all the seagulls were facing the same direction except one. Respect to that seagull not afraid to do his own thing.

Surfers Paradise in the distance.

The view looks even prettier once God starts to play with his paint box.


The next morning I snuck out of the unit to walk back up to the race precinct to cheer on the half and full marathoners. As soon as I left the building I could hear the loud speakers in the distance and wanted to be up where all the action was happening.

This is always the best part of the weekend. Seeing all the GaleForce runners giving it their best. Hanging out with people who are like family. Talking. Cheering. Clapping. Watching strangers reaching for their goal. More talking. More cheering. More clapping. Trying to take photos of the squad and ending up with pictures of the road - thank goodness for Facebook or I wouldn't have any. Marvelling at the elite runners. And at the runners who'll run a marathon carrying a tuba. Or wearing a cat suit. Or a superhero suit complete with muscles.

It's a day that brings out the best in people. Determination. Pride. Joy. Courage. Selflessness. The smiles and tears are infectious.

Natalie and I walked back to her place once a lot of the runners had made it back. Via the ice cream place. I threw caution to the wind (remember the word wind because my whole family will be remembering it for years to come) and ordered a double scoop of the most delicious and decadent flavours on the menu. Then we raced back to her place and I hopped into the car to hopefully get home before any side effects hit me.

The drive home was uneventful and apart from some disturbing noises coming from somewhere down deep, the afternoon was uneventful too. I thought I had dodged a bullet. But apparently intestinal bacteria needs extra time to ferment all that lovely lactose and the pain didn't really start for 24 hours. Some days I'm grateful that I work alone.

So Gold Coast 2013 was another roaring success. Can't wait till next year.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


You'd think that last weekend was all about getting this -

I guess a lot of it was about getting that medal but it ended up being so much more. There's way too much stuff from this weekend for just one post so today I'm just going to focus on Saturday morning - my ninth 10k at Gold Coast.

I think Natalie, my BFF, was a little horrified when I told her on Friday night that I wanted to be at the GaleForce tent by 5:30am but she hid it well. That meant setting the alarms for 4:45. But a restless pre-race sleep always means that I'm up before the alarm goes off anyway and so was she. 

Gorgeous start for race day

She lives only 3k from the start line so we were there quickly and parking wasn't an issue. Two little worries ticked off the list. All the GaleForce 10k runners were pumped and ready to go - well, they were ready to go whether they were pumped or not. We made our way up to the start at about 6:00 am but because I took a detour via the porta-loos (mercifully short queues and another little worry ticked off the list) I managed to lose everybody. Still, it wasn't hard to find where to go - just follow the hoards of people.

The hoards of people led me right to the back of the C section. My bib had A on it so there was a lot of dodging and weaving through the crowds to get myself up to the next tape. The lady bouncer took a good look at my bib and told me I still had a long way to go. More dodging and weaving through anxious, excited runners and I made it to the next barrier where I was given safe passage to the promised land - section A. 

When I entered the race a few months ago I'd had to make a decision on which section to self-seed in. I'd run the event in 55 mins last year but was running so much better this year. Still, the remnants of self-doubt were there and, although I've had some promising training runs, I was still concerned about what I should aim for. But last year I'd been in the B section and had had to spend a few kilometres dodging and weaving so I decided to back myself and put myself in the sub-50 minute A section.
Compared to the other sections the A section was quite sparse. There were a lot of young, fit runners there. And there were no other GaleForcers to chat to and while away the minutes till the gun went off. I went over my race plan in my head. Don't go out too hard and try to run each k under 5 minutes - pretty straight-forward but not always easy when the going gets tough. All I wanted to do was go sub-50 and prove to myself that I did belong in the A's.

I didn't bring my music - you'll be proud of me Coach Dion. First time ever running Gold Coast naked! I could hear every word over the loud speakers because I was so close to the start line. Simple starting instructions - ready then go with the hooter.

And we were off. I kept telling myself to relax and not push too hard. And that's what I did - enjoyed the blue skies, the energy from the runners around me and the encouragement from the spectators. I also loved having a relatively clear path. Being so close to the front meant that I wasn't having to try to get around slower runners. It wasn't too congested and I was able to get into a good rhythm quickly. I got to the first kilometre in 4:58 feeling good - perfect.

From there it was all about trying to pace well. Second kilometre came up in 4:49 - maybe a little too fast. Ease it up a bit. Yep, that feels strong without being too hard. 'If you close your eyes it almost feels like you've been here before.' Thanks a lot Bastille for today's ear worm. Maybe I should have brought my music after all.

The next kilometre marker came up sooner than I expected. And so did the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh. Each time my watch beeped I looked down and it read either 4:53 or 4:54. Consistency is a wonderful thing.

Somewhere between the fifth and sixth kilometre I started to feel the familiar, unwelcome feeling of a stitch starting to build. I haven't had one in races for years and in the past it's meant I'd had to slow right down to finish. I did ease up a little and focused on exhaling fully and trying to relax. This seemed to work and the stitch settled for a while. But it came back in the eighth and ninth kilometres and I did have to slow a bit to get through - 4:56 and 4:58. I knew, though, that baring some sort of catastrophe that I should make it to my goal.

The last kilometre is always hard but it's always the best at Gold Coast. The GaleForce tent is set up about 700 metres from the finish line and you know that you're going to get a little boost along from the squad at that point. And I did but I wasn't expecting the extra cheer with only 200 metres to go from Chris and Karen who'd got a great vantage point. They really pushed me all the way to the finish line.
I entered the last bend of the finishing chute (seriously the longest finish ever - turn left, right, left then right again and down about 100m to the finish line) and I could see that the clock had just ticked over 49 minutes. One final push to the line and I was done. Gun time - 49:43. Chip time - 49:17. 

And the extra special bonus was that I didn't want to throw up when I finished. Hmm - maybe should have pushed even harder.

The results came out later that afternoon and I have to say I was thrilled with my placing - ninth in my age group. Couldn't have been more perfect for my ninth event.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Ready. Set. Bake

Gold Coast is done and dusted for yet another year.

Not the race. Just the baking. That's a marathon in itself. I put aside a day and just bake till I run out of ingredients or energy. Put on the frilly apron. Crank up the baking music. It's so much more fun than real work.

Of course there's bound to be interruptions when you're on a mission. 

I had two. A call centre wanted to speak to the manager of the business. Technically I was the catering service yesterday so she didn't have any luck. And can I just say that it's pretty tricky to answer the phone with your hands covered in Anzac biscuit mix without getting it all over the handset. It's even trickier to text an answer to your sister with only your left pinky finger available.

The other interruption was a parcel delivery that needed a signature. The delivery men always look at you weirdly when you come to the door wearing a frilly apron - like you've stepped right out of the 1950s. 

The sum total of yesterday's bake-fest? 50 Anzac biscuits. A batch of brownies. Two dozen tangelo and poppyseed cupcakes. And two dozen chocolate cupcakes. Plus there's the 50 choc chunk/M&M cookies from the day before. And the golden retriever in a sugar coma. Toby has no staying power!

Toby's failure was Bubbles' success. It's not often that she gets to lick the bowl without getting shoved out of the way by someone bigger and greedier.

Hopefully the icing will cope with the weather okay. But if it doesn't I'll be able to show people photos of how they were supposed to look.

Wondering now just how many calories are in that lot. At least I'm not contributing to the obesity epidemic if I only feed them to obsessed runners.

So now all I have to do is drive to the coast and run this thing AND have a good time. 

Do I have any goals for the race? Sort of. I'd like to say that I picked the right starting zone - the sub 50 minute one. But if it all goes pear-shaped I won't throw a wobbly. I'm just delighted that running isn't so hard any more. Seriously, the last couple of years gave me a lot of perspective when it comes to racing. I'm a lot more Zen about my results these days.

Starting to get a bit excited. Should be a fun weekend.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Getting Ready For Gold Coast

There's only three days till my ninth Gold Coast 10k. Three days till I add a ninth medal to my collection. And there's lots of decision-making and preparation before I can get away.

Not running preparation. That's all done and dusted now.

At this point there's nothing more that I can do that will make a difference on the day. Since the beginning of the year I've run 22 speed sessions and completed 69 other runs which include three races. I've run through 2 pair of shoes and put holes in the toes of four pair of socks. I've sweat gallons. And tried to pretend that peanut M&Ms make the best recovery food ever invented (I'm pretty sure that the peanuts are chock-full of muscle-building protein and all that sugar is now stored as glycogen in my muscles). The only preparation that will make me run better on Saturday is to get plenty of rest. (Take note love-of-my-life: the most important commandment that you have to follow this week is Thou Shalt Not Snore!)

A lot of the decision-making all involves food at this point. Most importantly - what should I bake? There's over 100 people running under the GaleForce Squad banner this year. That's a lot of hungry mouths. To say nothing of supporters - families and friends.

Of course I'm not solely responsible for feeding all those hungry mouths but I do want to make sure that once again the GFRS tents have the best baked goods at the event. Pity that's not one of the award category.

So my oven has been fired up and Toby's tongue's at the ready to help with all that pesky bowl-cleaning. I've just pulled a batch of cookies out (the pink M&Ms are left-overs from Tom and Bec's wedding) but I've hit a mental road-block. I have no idea what else to cook. There's just too many options.

Do I go with the tried and true chocolate cupcakes? And if I do, will I ice them (always potential for a disaster when braking suddenly on the trip to the coast and then what if the weather turns warm?) Or will I go the caramel? I've got lots of tangelos from our tree so I could make some tangelo and poppyseed muffins. Caramel slice? Cranberry and white chocolate slice? Mocha date scones? Pumpkin scones? Anzac biscuits?

If I had unlimited time and unlimited energy I would make them all but there's a little thing called work that's really got to be done. And then there's the issue of actually getting them to the tent. My usual beast of burden has decided that he'd rather spend the weekend at home than have me ignore him for two days while I talk boring running stuff with my running buddies. He doesn't find it as amusing as me to rate the shirtless male marathoners on a scale of ten to put-it-back-on. And he doesn't like seeing my disappointed face when I find out he missed that action shot of me when I came flying past our tents. (Let's face it I'm not that fast and he should have time to take at least five pics).

Let's just say that our idea of a fun weekend differs somewhat and leave it at that.

The baking issue is just one of my dilemmas. I also have to decide what I'm going to wear. It's looking like it'll be about 11C. That's just over 50F. Cool but not ridiculous. So do I go shorts or my 3/4 tights? Singlet or t-shirt? Hat or hair?

And will I bring my music? That seems to be such a contentious issue these days. Personally I've never had any issue with runners using music - I have more problems with people who dodge and weave dangerously, who cut in front of you as you're going through water stops, who stop dead in your path and force you to take defensive measures and those that start way too close to the front according to their running ability.

Then there's just that little annual argument that I have with my bestie Natalie. She thinks it was my idea to commit to running 10 years of 10k together. I'm sure it was hers. Neither of us wants to take the blame credit. Let's face it, at our age we're never going to remember what happened nine years ago. I have issues remembering what happened last week.

And finally, what colour shirt are we going to be lumped with this year? Participants in the 10k seem to be treated as the poor, colour-blind cousins of the Gold Coast Marathon weekend. We've been treated to some of the most hideous coloured shirts. I have grey, pale yellow (only certain skin tones work with yellow) and an insipid minty colour that I have problems describing (and I work with colours). They are always a man's cut despite at least half of the competitors being female. And most of my shirts have been used as rags or been given away. But I haven't given up hope. One year we're going to end up with a shirt that I like.

But despite all these uncertainties there's one thing I know for sure. I'm going to have a fun weekend.