Thursday, May 29, 2014

One Man's Easy Is Another Woman's Tempo

You'd think at my age I'd be done with learning new things.

I'm not!

Or maybe these 'new' things that I'm learning are actually things I've learnt before but have forgotten. Because I'm more prone to being forgetful these days.

I learnt a valuable lesson as a runner yesterday. Don't assume, when you agree to run a nice easy pace with another runner, that their easy pace will be the same as yours.

I didn't run hills with the squad yesterday morning. I'd counted my chickens before they'd hatched when I'd thrown all my worries into the river on Wednesday morning to be washed out to sea. You should never count your chickens before they're hatched because a goanna might get into the nest and eat a few of those eggs.

I'd been a little premature in kissing the anxiety good-bye. This is not a quick-fix thing. It's going to take a little while for things to settle down. And by Wednesday evening I knew I didn't have it in me to get up before dawn to push myself up hills over and over again. But by Thursday evening I was wanting to go for a nice easy run.

I'd managed to find myself a partner-in-crime. #2 son, Josh said he'd run with me. So as soon as he was ready we set out.

We'd agreed that we'd take it easy and relaxed. In my head that meant around 6 minute pace. But Josh is 25 years younger than me and a lot stronger so his easy and relaxed is more like my tempo pace. 

Right from when we took off I was breathing harder than I'd hoped to. Josh looked like he was doing it easy. He seemed relaxed and comfortable and wasn't breathing heavily at all while I was left scurrying along behind him - two strides for each of his - trying desperately not to get left behind because it was dark and although I love running in the dark in the morning it's a different matter at night when all the weirdos come out to play. And there was the little matter of the flasher who's been showing his wares in the Botanical Gardens, which was where we were heading.

The first kilometre clicked over at 5:35. The second at 5:18. By the fourth we were running at 5:07 pace. Almost a minute under what I'd thought we'd be running. But, surprisingly, I was keeping up (probably because Josh was slowing occasionally to let this happen) and, even more surprisingly, I felt really good. Strong. Like I could keep at this pace for a long time. As long as there were no hills.

But of course there were hills. In the form of bridges. And there were two of them that we had to cross. And they did slow us down a little. To 5:14 for the first and 5:08 for the second. Which, for me really isn't slow at all. 

At the top of the second bridge we stopped and walked for a bit. Lack of fuel had caught up with my speedy partner but it wasn't long till he was good to go. He said we'd back off on the pace a bit. And we did - to 5:35 again. 

We had only about a kilometre and a half to go at this point. Home and dinner were only a little bit further to run. That's when Josh really opened up. One minute I was on his shoulder and the next he was a good thirty metres ahead. I was running as fast as I could but he was just widening the gap. I was gasping for breath and my legs were burning but I felt amazing! Exhilarated! Alive!! And it gave me a big dose of confidence after my less than sterling run at Great Ocean Road.

Not quite the run that I'd planned. But plans are meant to be broken, aren't they? And this ended up being one of those great runs that keep you coming back for more.  

So thank you Josh!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Last week wasn't all fun and games and seal kisses and unicorns farting rainbows.

As lovely as it was to be on the receiving end of a fishy-smelling smooch, there were heavy things weighing on me. Tough family stuff. It cast a little shadow over our weekend away. And into the week once we were home. And as an over-thinker I was having a hard time letting it go.

But with some problem-solving and a bit of effort, the worry started to lift as this week started. Things have improved daily and today I was ready to let it all go. With one of those runs that are less about training and more about clearing the head.

I chose my favourite route. Along the river. Because the water seems to give me the greatest sense of peace. It was still dark - my favourite time to run. Because when it's dark there are fewer distractions. More time to think. Or not think. Just to be. To feel the movement.

As I ran I could feel the run work its usual magic. All the problems from the past week were a thousand miles away. Floating down the river towards the sea. 

The air was crisp but a long way from cold. The river was still and the reflections from the street lights and buildings stretched in bands across the river like a giant technicolour barcode. And that made me wonder exactly what would come up at the checkout if a scanner was run over it.

I didn't have to ponder that question very long. There's only one answer to that question. A price check would come up with $0.00. 

Being there at that moment, in the moment, enjoying the moment - truly priceless.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Tale Of the Wayward Button

It's never great when you hear a loud 'plop' in the toilet when you're the only one in there and you're not even sitting on it yet.

I was in the airport terminal last Tuesday - or, to be precise, in the toilets in the airport terminal when I heard a 'plop'. For a second I thought it was from another cubicle and wondered what on earth that person had been eating. But a momentary glance into the bowl before I assumed my position on the throne told me the horrible truth.

A button had fallen off my cardigan.

And it wasn't just a plain old button. It was quite a distinctive button. A feature button on one of my favourite and most-worn winter woollies. A button that would be hard to replace.


There are pivotal moments in life where the decisions you make are ones you can't reverse. Like stepping off a cliff. This decision was not going to have such a catastrophic consequence. Unless you count any number of communicable diseases that could be caught from just the toilet seat alone. And I'm ruling out pregnancy as something that could be 'caught' from a toilet seat in this instance because it wasn't a unisex toilet and we all know that a boy has to sit on the seat first for there to be any risk of catching a pregnancy from going to the toilet.

This decision was between wearing my cardigan without an eighth button (or replacing the entire eight)  or plunging my hand into the cold and putrid toilet water. And by putrid I mean it was actually quite clean looking and there were no skid-marks on the bowl but there was the potential of teeming, microscopic, flesh-eating bacteria lurking like barracuda waiting to tear my hand into a bloody, pulpy mess. 

And I had to make that decision quickly. I hadn't gone into the toilet just to get away from the crowds in the terminal. 

As I stared down at my button sitting right at the base of the pan, I remembered all those ads on television that are trying to imbue global mass-hysteria about germs. Those ads for products that disinfect every single surface of the house so there's no possible chance that we will become ill. Those ads that tell me quite clearly that bacteria are something to be avoided at all cost. 

Then I remembered the many Current Affair programs I'd seen that had compared bacteria counts of different surfaces. That my kitchen floor had many times more bacteria lurking than my toilet seat and I'd eaten food dropped on the kitchen floor (only ever under the 3 second rule which is how quick you have to be to eat floor food when Toby's around) and I hadn't become sick. 

And, finally, I remembered all the times my delicate little hands had been in less than ideal environments. Like the many times I'd checked my babies' nappies to see if they were wet by using the digital method and finding that they weren't just wet and that the smell method was probably better to employ before the digital method. Or the time that the shoulder-length glove I was wearing sprung a leak when I was shoulder-length up a cow. 

I've survived many close encounters of the faecal kind so there really was no decision to make. I plunged my hand down and retrieved my treasure, dried it, wrapped it in some toilet paper and stuck it in my pocket.

And then I scrubbed my hands with as much soap as I could squirt from the stingy cannister and tried to forget a less-than-pleasant interlude. And I did - until I got home and remembered that there was something in my pocket. I pulled out the little toilet-paper wrapped bundle and placed it on the jumper on the dining room table so I'd remember to sew it back on.

It must have looked a little too much like a gift for my youngest son. His curiosity got the better of him so he unwrapped it. Of course he wanted to know why there was a button wrapped in toilet paper so of course I had to tell him what had happened. And then he demanded to know if I'd washed the button. 

Oops. Sharing is caring, isn't it? Even if it is toilet water??

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Great Ocean Road Half Marathon

It's hard to resist the cherubic face of my great-niece looking up at me with her lips puckered wanting to give me a kiss good-bye. That cute little three year old face haloed with burnt golden hair wanting to bestow the sweetest gift that a three year old can give. Impossible to resist - so I didn't. And I really should have. Especially since that cute little puckered mouth was bathed in snot. And that snot ended up on my mouth - ughh!! Effectively my sweet little great-niece was a biological weapon

Apparently snot is much more likely to give you a cold than spit. Or at least that's what my son pointed out to me as we were flying down to Melbourne and I was trying not to scream from the pain in my sinuses and ears. So last week I learnt a couple of very valuable lessons. Take a decongestant if you're stuffed up with a cold and you have to fly. And don't kiss your snotty great-niece on her snotty lips just a couple of days before you run a race.

It's just as well that I was never planning on racing the Great Ocean Road half marathon. The weekend was mostly about family - getting to see Sam and Hannah in their new natural habitat, spending some quality time with both of them and #2 son Josh. Getting to run along a beautiful stretch of coastline was just an added bonus.

We drove down to Apollo Bay on Saturday afternoon, checked into our accommodation and tried to get a good night's sleep. Sleep is always a little elusive the night before a race - even if it's more a run than a race. But we made it to the start line fairly rested - and, my personal little victory, unmedicated. I was actually fairly un-stressed about the run. Or maybe it was more that my head cold was a good distraction.

There was plenty of time once we were dropped off to do important things. Like take selfies. And find your team-mates (or more accurately - stand in a fairly open place so your team-mates have a chance to find you). And then find willing strangers to take more photos.

The race finally started about five minutes late and it was straight up a hill that was still going up when my watch beeped at the kilometre mark. There was a lot of people to run through so we'd either started too far back of they'd started too far forward. By the second kilometre the traffic had eased enough so  I could run at my own pace but I just didn't feel great. The pace was okay but it just felt harder than it should have. I put it down to the hills and just kept running hoping that I'd start to feel better soon.

The scenery really was spectacular - thank goodness that there was something to take my mind off the pain my body was in. I'd eased back on the pace but I still was struggling. I kept doing the maths - how much further did I have to run? That's not good when you're only around halfway through the race. My legs were heavy and the cold was taking its toll - I had nothing in the tank.

By around kilometre 17 I ran back into Josh. He'd been a bit ahead of me and I thought I'd see him next when I crossed the finish line but he was struggling with a sore leg and it was at that point that we made a pact to finish the race together. That's when the race became fun again. It didn't matter about time (even though time didn't ever really matter) and it didn't matter if we had to walk. What mattered was that we went across the line hand in hand and got a good photo.

So for the next 6 kilometres we took walk breaks when Josh didn't think he could run any more and ran when the pain eased back. I was a little surprised about a couple of insensitive runners who passed comments as they ran past us. "Look at the stragglers!" and "Don't give up - only two kilometres to go". We were hardly stragglers because we still finished in the top half of the field and neither did we give up - walking is still moving forward (BTW we passed that runner before the end and didn't say a word when we passed.)

Then, finally, we could see the finishing arch. Josh put on a bit of a spurt and I had to almost sprint to keep up. I had to remind him of our pact - and I had to do it loudly. So we're running down the last few hundred metres and basically I'm yelling 'wait for Mummy, pet!' - there's a first time for everything in running.


We got just in front of the finishing line, held hands and lifted them aloft. And the photographer missed us. So we tried it again and he missed again - and we'd run out of course. Ah well, in our heads it was a great shot. A triumphant family photo to treasure.

We caught back up with Sam and Hannah, had a quick bite to eat and then it was back to the car. We had other plans for the day.

You can't really go to the Great Ocean Road without visiting the 12 Apostles. Especially now that they are starting to diminish in number. It was about a ninety minute drive from Apollo Bay but it was worth it to see this.

And to get a great mother-son shot. Yes, it hurt (especially after being in a car for ninety minutes) and no, I didn't wet myself.

So my final word on the race - it was a good one and I'd definitely recommend to put it on your to-do list. It was well-organised on a scenic route in a great location. It might not have been my best race ever but that can't happen every time.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

When Eyes Meet Eyes

Back again on-line finally after another hiatus. More technical issues meant that our celebrations last Friday were very short-lived. But this time we've been connected for more than eight hours so I'm calling it a win.

So what's happened in my life in the last week, you ask? A lot of the same old, same old - sleeping, running, eating, working and trying to stay calm about going to Melbourne on Saturday. But the highlight of the week would have to be the 'moment' I had on a run yesterday.

Luckily this moment didn't involve any unwanted or poorly-timed bodily functions. This moment was just a fleeting encounter. A moment where eyes meet eyes and there is a connection. A moment when you feel like although you're strangers, you already know each other's hearts.

You've all heard of love at first sight. Where you glance across the room and catch sight of him (or her) and your eyes meet and suddenly you're lost. Well it was nothing like that - apart from the eyes meeting bit.

I was just running along one of my usual routes, enjoying the crisp morning air and the fact that running really helps with the pre-travel, I-think-too-much nerves when I came across a running group running the opposite direction. The path was fairly narrow but it was wide enough for us to pass comfortably if we all ran single file. All of the group seemed to understand that running courtesy dictates that you move across so your fellow runners can pass - well all of the group EXCEPT the tall, dark man at the back.

As I got closer I was waiting for him to do what his friends had done - just move a foot to the left. But no. He wasn't budging. Our eyes locked - but not in the romantic across-the-room-happily-ever-after way. They locked in a battle-to-the-death, blink-and-you-lose way.

I gave him the stink eye that said 'Shove over you uncouth Neanderthal.'

His matching glare said 'I'm sick of bra-burning feminists who think they own the world'

Then I used my death glare.' Were you raised by wolves? Whatever happened to good manners and common courtesy?'

To which he countered with a belligerent gaze  'I'm coming through. I'm bigger and faster and if you don't get out of the way you're going to get hurt.'

But I had the last word with the evil eye as I stepped off the path because he was bigger and faster. 'You might be able to outrun me but you won't be able to outrun Karma. I hope you pull a groin muscle.'

And as he ran off into the distance I went with the scathing, withering glance perfected centuries past by pragmatic school teachers the world over and had one last mental shot 'Stupid a$$hole.'

Yep, I won that battle. And without even saying a word.

And because all posts should come with a picture, here's a gratuitously cute photo of Toby welcoming me home after I'd been longer at the shops than usual. I got a two-toy greeting.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Day I Became A Murderer

My internet was cut off this week.

Not because I didn't pay my bills. And not because I've been downloading things illegally. The company that I'd been with was going out of business. So they kindly sent me an email saying it would be shut off from the 14th of May - then they went ahead and shut us down on the 3rd. WTF?!!

Of course I'd worked off the date that they'd originally given us and organised a new connection just the morning that they cut us off, not knowing that the original date had been an approximation. And I'd been told that the new connection would take 10 days to set up. So I knew that I might be without internet for a day at the most next week. No big deal.

And then I tried to get on the internet and found it wasn't working. I thought it must have been a temporary glitch ... until I rang the company and found out the horrible truth. The voice on the end of the line was terribly apologetic and said that we should have been told the third of May and that she would send me an email. I was in no mood to be placated. Even though the debacle was not her fault I wanted to punish her just because she was the voice at the end of the line so my response to the conciliatory email was along the lines of "and how am I supposed to receive the email seeing as you've cut my internet off!!!" The word 'idiot' was not uttered but was definitely implied. With an appropriately scathing profanity.

Luckily our new internet provider (Internode, for anyone who's interested) has exceptional customer service. And empathetic staff who respond to middle-aged women who can spin a heart-rending tale of woe. The ten days I was originally quoted turned out to be only four!!

Hallelujah, I am connected again. Which is just as well because I have had something very important that I needed to get off my chest. I've been a bad girl and the guilt has been eating me up.

I became a murderer this week!

Most of you are probably shocked by that statement. Most of you would view me as a somewhat unbalanced but fairly harmless person who wouldn't hurt a fly. But some of you might have realised that there is a hidden darkness in all of us and given the right circumstance we are each capable of more evil than we could even contemplate. Those 'right circumstances' came to pass this week.

The day that I became a stone cold killer started off as many days do - an early alarm, shivering in the dark as I changed into my running clothes, eating a slightly unripe banana, hoping that the banana would act quickly so I could run without fear of PTSD (Poorly Timed, Stress-induced Defecation) and a happy and uneventful run.

You'd think that with all those endorphins surging through my veins that, of all days. that would not have been the day I would have turned homicidal. But in fact it was all those happy hormones that started off a whole cascade of events that ended up in blood and carnage.

After the run I took myself off to the shops to get a coffee. It was a particularly good coffee - hot, strong and not too bitter. It amped up my mood just a little more. I was full of caffeine and endorphins and a sense of joy that I wanted to share with the world. So the first thing I did when I got home was let our chicken out to roam around the back yard. There's nothing in the world she loves more than exploring.

If I hadn't let her out it wouldn't have happened.

But I did. And it did. Now all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. (Apologies to William Shakespeare)

It was the chicken that made me aware that something was amiss in the back yard. She wasn't cackling but her alarmed clucks told me that she was disturbed. (I'll bet that you didn't know I had the Dr Doolittle-esque ability to translate chicken-speak into English.) So being a good and caring chicken owner I went to see what was wrong and what I saw was this -

Or it would have been this if I'd had to describe him to a police sketch artist who also had a strong dislike of vermin.

A rat lurching and hopping drunkenly across our lawn in broad daylight isn't something I'm used to seeing. I know we have rats but they generally only come out at night and I generally choose to ignore the fact of their existence because I don't see them. And our rats (yes, the word 'our' implies ownership and I'm happy to 'own' invisible rats who clearly do not exist because I never see them) are scurry-ers not lurchers or hoppers. There was something very wrong with this rat for it to be brazenly cavorting out in the open and disturbing both chickens and humans alike.

I remembered that Iven had put down rat bait so this strange ataxic gait could have been caused by poisoning. But I also remembered that the Great Plague of 1665 was caused by rats. Or rather fleas that were carried by rats. So there was only one course of action I could take. I had to kill it. I'd either be kindly hastening a slow, agonising death OR I'd be preventing the deaths of millions of my neighbours.

And then I remembered that Luke was home so I may not have to kill it myself. After all why reproduce if you can't count on the fruit of your loins doing your dirty work for you?

So I called Luke down to do his 'manly duty'. He was a little horrified that the rat was still alive. His expectations were that he'd be picking up a corpse with a plastic bag and throwing it in the bin. His hesitation made me totally over-think the situation. Luke's still fairly young and impressionable. Plus he's a kind and sensitive young man. If I got him to do the deed I might be scarring him mentally for life. I may, in fact, be creating a vicious homicidal maniac. So, as much as I hate to take a life, I would be a terrible mother to make my son do what is clearly my duty.

It was me who picked up the shovel. And it was me who hit that poisoned, plague-ridden rat on the head. Twice. And it was Luke who commented that I hit like a girl and should get a better swing happening. And Luke who took the shovel off me in exasperation to deliver the killer blow. So now the guilt is not just because I'm a murderer. I've made my sweet little, 6ft 4in son a partner-in-crime.

He helped dispose of the body too. And I'm pretty sure I heard a satisfied cackle from the chicken as we triple-bagged the evidence of our blood-lust. One less rat to steal her food!

I feel so much better now I've confessed.